Deputy and wife walk for suicide prevention

As a Douglas County deputy sheriff, Bret Hicks, 37, of Ruhenstroth, has seen his share of suicides. But his feelings deepened four years ago when the subject came closer to home when Tim Livingston, a cousin of Bret's wife, Stephanie, 34, committed suicide.

"She and her cousin were pretty tight growing up," said Bret Hicks. "When we got married we did a lot of vacations and weekends together. It was pretty devastating."

The Hickses and six other family members and friends decided to form a team to take part in "Out of the Darkness Overnight," a 20-mile walk to raise funds and awareness for suicide prevention on July 22-23 in San Francisco.

Bret said the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, organizers of the walk, work to help the survivors as well as the potential victims. Nationally, someone dies of suicide every 18 minutes, according to the organization's Web site

"With me, being with the sheriff's office, I see this happen quite often," said Hicks.

In his line of work, Hicks has found that awareness is sometimes the key to preventing suicides. The sheriff's office trains deputies to become members of a Crisis Intervention Team, designed to help during desperate times. The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has five or six of these trained deputies.

Recently, deputies from Douglas County visited the Lakes Crossing facility for mental offenders in Reno where representatives of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill met with them. The deputies also got the opportunity to talk to patients, themselves.

"We met people in mental health who are being treated," said Bret.

He explained that sometimes the department's safety procedures are too harsh when dealing with people who are about to commit suicide.

"It's quite shocking to find out how much we don't know," said Bret. "We have certain safety issues. (People contemplating suicide) don't like confrontational situations. We learn how to maintain our procedures while being able to deal with them with more sensitivity."

Stephanie's cousin had committed suicide while under a great deal of stress, according to Bret.

"He had just started a trucking business in Sacramento that really took off," said Bret. "Basically, his father said he was doing the work of three guys."

Livingston's wife was the one who initiated going on the walk, but didn't feel ready until this year, according to Stephanie.

"My cousin set up the team," said Stephanie. "(The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) was something she came across in the situation. She was not quite ready to go four years ago. We wanted to be there to support her through it."

Stephanie and Bret have been building up their stamina to prepare for the walk. The other day they walked 13 miles.

Out of the Darkness Overnight is a 20-mile walk through the night, from dusk to dawn. The Hicks are going on the walk in San Francisco, but another 20-mile walk takes place in Chicago on Aug. 12. Funds raised benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the only national not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding research, education, survivor and awareness programs - both to prevent suicide and to assist those affected by suicide.

Walkers have to raise at least $1,000 before they can participate. To help Bret and Stephanie reach their fundraising goal or to get more information about the Overnight, call (888) 644-4805 or visit

n Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.


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