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'Out of Darkness' walk set for Saturday in Ottawa

Walk benefits suicide prevention research

Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention walkers place a photo of a loved one on the memorial wall during the 2018 event at the Jordan block in Ottawa.
Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention walkers place a photo of a loved one on the memorial wall during the 2018 event at the Jordan block in Ottawa.

The community will come together to support itself and suicide prevention Saturday during the Out of Darkness La Salle County Walk in Ottawa.

It’s an issue familiar to local attorney Alexis Ferracuti, chairperson for the event. She lost a friend while in law school she considered “funny, caring, smart and protected everybody around him.”

“When we lost him I started thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I really didn’t know any of the signs.’ Anything about what depression looks like or what it could look like. I didn’t know what suicidal ideations were, I didn’t know anything about it,” she recalled. “And I decided that couldn’t continue, I had to know more about it.”

Walk scheduled for Saturday

She joined the Boston chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention before returning to the area and taking over the Out of the Darkness La Salle County Walk in 2015.

This year’s event begins at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Jordan Block with the mile-long walk expected to begin at 1:30 p.m after a few programs have been shown to participants.

The event will also have its largest collection of silent auction items with a number of baskets from restaurants and businesses and Ottawa River Rescue will be cooking food. Music will also be provided by Ladd Sound Productions.

Activities for children in the back of the Jordan Block include Trunk-Or-Treat hosted by Ottawa, Marseilles and La Salle County law enforcement agencies and Ottawa and Marseilles fire departments will be handing out candy. Teams will also be carving pumpkins and adding luminaries that will be left in the park overnight.

Since taking over the event in 2015, Ferracuti said the number of walkers has increased from 125 to currently roughly 290, but she expects nearly 100 will sign-up the day of the event as well.

Organizers also seen an increase in private mental health facilities but Ferracuti said they remain “overwhelmed” by those needing access to health care.

Two programs will be shown to attendees as well including “It’s Real,” which is made for high school seniors to prepare them for entering a new environment away from home when attending college and “Talk Saves Lives,” which details signs and symptoms of depression and what to do if you identify those symptoms in yourself or others.

What are some of the symptoms?

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states on its website some things to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of more concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs through what they say or what they do.

The organization states warning signs can arise in conversation if they talk about killing themselves, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped or discussing unbearable pain while behavior signs include an increased use of drugs or alcohol, looking for a way to end their lives such as searching online for methods, withdrawing from activities, isolating from friends and family, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, giving away prized possession, aggression or fatigue.

A person’s mood can also display signs such as depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation or shame, agitation or anger and relief or sudden improvement.

Event organizer: If I had known then what I know now, maybe I could have done something

“The last one hits home for me because the sudden improvement of symptoms is something I’ve seen in several of my friends that I’ve gone through this with,” Ferracuti said. “If I had known then what I know now, maybe I could have done something.”

Ferracuti said many that participate in the walk have the same regret and it’s difficult “living with that kind of sadness” so they look to make it positive for someone else and inform others.

“I don’t want anybody to feel like that. And that’s the whole point of this walk. Whether we raise $50,000 or $1, the whole point of this walk is community. And our community especially, like I said this during the tornado a thousand times, it’s a 'pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps' type of community and nobody wants to admit when they need help,” Ferracuti said.

She added the community is an incredibly giving one, but it should also look inward and identify whether they need help.

Ferracuti hopes a walk like this one encourages others to recognize their feelings, identify any issues they may have and encourage open dialogue about feelings with their children.

“We live in an incredible place,” she said. “We just have to make sure everybody here feels really comfortable taking care of themselves and not just taking care of the people around them.”

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