Veterans and first responders tend to have a higher risk of suicide, something the highest-earning donation team of the La Salle County's Walk Out Of Darkness suicide prevention walk is aware of.
Angela Underwood has lost two family members to suicide including her nephew Christopher Woods five years ago who served in the Army and her brother La Salle County Deputy Brian Underwood who died in February.
"Team Underwood" raised $6,508 so far but Angela expects more money will continue to come in to support The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
"I feel like I need to make something so negative more positive," Angela said as her voice began to break. "And it keeps my mind occupied."
The number was also recognized by State Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, who said he first discussed the issue with a family that visited his office in Springfield shortly after being elected to office to talk about the issue.
He attended the event and spoke to the crowd acknowledging the first responders both in attendance at the event and the ones in uniforms handing out candy to children.
"We're seeing a spike in our first responders. They go out every day and they see some tragic things and we ask them to do this day after day without question and we've seen a spike in that community and we need to recognize that," Yednock said.
Steps forward are being made and Yednock mentioned the First Responders Suicide Prevention Act passed this year that allows for confidential support with someone in a peer support counselor in the department or other peer support counseling program, according to the Illinois General Assembly website. It also requires training programs for police and firefighters to recognize the signs of work-related cumulative stress and other related issues that may lead to suicide and offer solutions for intervention.
"We need to let them have an outlet too. We don't want things to build up. We don't want them to hurt themselves and leave their families in such a hard way," Yednock said.
He also acknowledged the loss of family and friends in the past who died to suicide and acknowledged the heartache in their families.
"There's always something that might have been said. Somewhere down the line that you look back and go, 'That might have been them reaching out' and I think it was and I wasn't prepared to understand what they were saying," Yednock said. "And I say to all of you, you're all here because you had some of this contact in your life and spread it to someone else. If someone comes up and says something to you that you're not sure about, take it seriously."
Angela has taken this message to heart since the loss of her family members and now considers herself a resource for others should they need direction to a professional or just a listening ear.
"We all need each other," Angela said. "I've helped people get in touch with counselors. Recently someone came to me and said they were considering suicide, they had a plan and everything, and I urged them to go to counseling."
"I text them fairly often to check-in and they're going to counseling now," she added.
Help for anyone considering suicide is available by calling 800-273-8255 or at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.