By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Lester Prairie native Tammy Diehn and Hutchinson resident Terri Lynaugh are part of a “club” they hope no one else has to join they are both suicide survivors, the term used to describe those who’ve lost a loved one to suicide.
To raise awareness about mental illness and suicide prevention, the two women have organized the first “Emotions in Motion Walk for Life” from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.
“We really hope that no other family would have to endure the pain that we have to, and if we can save one person one family . . . ” said Diehn, whose sister, Shelly Tuebert, passed away in January.
Lynaugh (whose sister, Tami Newcomb, died in August 2014) added that they hope to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, and provide resources that can help.
Since they started planning for the walk, Lynaugh said others have shared their story of losing a loved one to suicide, or of their own mental health struggles. Although suicide can be a “taboo subject,” Lynaugh encourages people to keep communicating.
“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I want to talk about my sister as much as I can . . . It’s a way of keeping her memory alive.”
Lynaugh describes her sister as a “funny, upbeat person” who “never wanted the focus on herself.”
Diehn has fond memories of her sister, Shelly, too.
“She was a good listener; she tended to put others before herself,” Diehn said.
Walk for Life
Diehn’s team name for the Sept. 17 Walk for Life is “Team Shelly Dancing in the Sky” after Shelly’s love for music and dancing.
Several other teams have registered for the walk already, as well. Many plan to wear inspirational T-shirts, with messages like “You’re more important than you realize,” and “Keep going you matter.”
Although the event is based in Hutchinson, it has drawn interest from all over McLeod, Wright, Carver, Meeker, and Sibley counties. Half of the money raised from the walk will stay in the area, helping to fund education and programs about mental health.
“We really recognize there is a need, and people are seeking information,” Diehn said.
As part of a mental health task force for Meeker, McLeod, and Sibley counties, Diehn plans to bring speakers to local communities, and obtain curriculum for area school districts. Earlier this year, she helped the Lester Prairie School District receive a suicide prevention curriculum called Linking Education and Awareness for Depression and Suicide (LEADS).
“The more money we can raise, the more education we can provide in our local area,” Diehn said.
The other 50 percent of the money raised will go toward Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), one of the first organizations in the nation dedicated to the prevention of suicide. A woman from Minnesota, Adina Wrobleski, began the organization in 1989, 10 years after the tragic loss of her daughter.
SAVE is based on the belief that suicide is preventable, and everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention. The non-profit offers grief support, educational material, training and consulting for professionals, research regarding suicide prevention, and public awareness.
Diehn first contacted SAVE shortly after Shelly passed away.
“I wanted to be involved, and I was looking for support,” she recalled.
As a “first step” for someone beginning to work through suicide grief, SAVE recommends a book called, “Suicide: Survivors,” which was written by the organization’s founder.
The SAVE website also has a question-and-answer page about suicide. One of the questions is “Why do people kill themselves?” The website states that there are almost always multiple causes, such as an underlying mental illness or substance abuse problem. These illnesses are treatable, though, and “with awareness, education, and treatment, people can be helped so that suicide does not become an option.”
SAVE also notes that “the decision to attempt suicide is really a desire to stop suffering. Never give up on someone just because they say they’ve made up their mind. Depression is a crisis, and intervening to help the person regain perspective and aggressively fight the disease can help reverse the downward trend toward suicidal thoughts or attempts.”
No matter what, Lynaugh encourages people to be kind to others, and show them that they are cared about.
“You do not know the fight that people are fighting,” she said.
Both Lynaugh and Diehn said that planning the Sept. 17 event has been healing for them, and they are looking forward to a fun afternoon.
“Of course, it will be emotional because we’re remembering our loved ones who are no longer with us,” but “we want this event to be hopeful not sad in any way,” Lynaugh said.
To register for the walk, follow the link at www.herald-journal.com.
Walk for Life Sunday, Sept. 17
• What: Emotions in Motion Walk for Life event.
• When: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17.
• Where: The McLeod County Fairgrounds, 840 Century Ave. SW in Hutchinson. The event will take place rain or shine, as an indoor facility is available.
• Who: All ages are welcome to register. Benches will be available for those who would rather watch than walk.
• Schedule: Doors open at noon. A 10-lap walk around an asphalt track starts at 1 p.m. Music will be provided by Chopper, “The World’s Nuttiest DJ.” After the walk there will be food and refreshments, a silent auction, a kids’ fun zone, a resource fair, a memory tent, and more.
• Speakers: SAVE Executive Director Dan Reidenberg will be speaking, as well as Dan Hanson, who is a suicide survivor, combat veteran, and member of the Wounded Warrior Program.
• Why: The event will raise money for education programs about depression and suicide. Fifty percent of the money will stay local, and 50 percent will go toward the national Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE).
• Registration: To register, follow the “Walk for Life” link at www.herald-journal.com. Entry fees are $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 12 and under, or $50 for a family of five.
• Contact: To donate to the silent auction, become a sponsor, or volunteer for the event, contact Tammy Diehn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (507) 381-4082; or Terri Lynaugh at email@example.com or (320) 779-1146. A booth with information will also be at the McLeod County Fair.