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Published September 06, 2010, 12:00 AM

Walk of Hope aims to raise suicide awareness

There’s little Buffy Riddering remembers about her mother’s death 34 years ago. She’s been told she was at a baby sitter’s when it happened. The only image in her mind is being picked up by her generally unemotional father and seeing a single tear rolling down his face.

By: Emily Hartley, INFORUM

There’s little Buffy Riddering remembers about her mother’s death 34 years ago. She’s been told she was at a baby sitter’s when it happened. The only image in her mind is being picked up by her generally unemotional father and seeing a single tear rolling down his face.

At 38 years old, Riddering today is still dealing with her mother’s suicide, as well as those of several close friends.

“There’ve been many, many suicides throughout my life, so to me, that’s what’s normal,” said Riddering, who first at­tempt­ed suicide as an 8-year-old. “You go through all of the different grief, the anger, the blaming, everything. I’ve done it all – a couple times.”

Riddering and others who’ve lost loved ones to suicide will gather on Sunday at the 10th annual Walk of Hope, a suicide awareness walk in downtown Far­go sponsored by First­Link.

“Our main, core idea is to make sure people have a safe place to come together and spend some time to know that they’re not alone in grieving somebody who died by suicide,” said Stacie Loegering, director of Information and Crisis Services at FirstLink.

At 14.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2007, North Dakota has the 11th highest suicide rate in the country. FirstLink hopes the Walk of Hope and its other efforts will create awareness of the problem.

“Suicide prevention is everybody’s job,” Loegering said. “It’s really knowing (a person), kind of looking for those warning signs and openly just connecting them to the next resource.”

That resource may be counseling, a physician or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK, which connects to local FirstLink operators 24 hours a day.

“Even if it helps you get through that one night, you got through that one night, and that’s what’s important,” Riddering, who grew up in Fargo, said of the hotline. “And if by the next day you’re ready to do it again, make another phone call … It’s not going to solve your problems, but it will help you understand your problems and your feelings and to just hang on a little bit longer, and do that every single day until it starts to get better.”

“Which can take 34 years,” she added with a laugh.

Employed at Cass County Social Services and recently married, Riddering said she’s just now starting to get involved in suicide prevention.

“A lot of people say that suicide is so very selfish, and I felt like that, too, but it’s a disease,” Riddering said. “I understand what it feels like to just want it all to end. Life sucks sometimes. But I also now, at 38, understand that it does get better, and it was up to me to make it better and to figure out what I needed to be happy and go for that.”

Riddering attended support groups and counseling throughout high school but still found herself in a psych ward at age 17 after one of many suicide at­tempts. She decided to move out of her home and learn for herself “what the real world was like,” and she said its been a long road to where she is now.

“I wanted to kill myself a lot for a lot of years,” Riddering said. “I tried many times, but there is that silver lining. It’s a real thin lining, but it’s there. And if you can remember that, know that, understand that and believe it, maybe you won’t commit suicide.”

Cindy Miller, executive director of FirstLink, said the best way to deal with suicide is to talk about it, something events like the Walk of Hope help to encourage.

“(Some people) think if we talk about it, we’re giving people ideas, but really, we need to be open with people and ask the questions and be able to support them and help get them resources,” Miller said. “We’re doing better than we were a lot of years ago, but I think we still have a long ways to go.”


If you go

  • What: Walk of Hope

  • When: Sunday. The walk begins at 3:30 p.m., and the social follows from 6 to 10 p.m.

  • Where: The walk starts at the Fargo Public Library, 102 3rd St. N. The social is at Peppers American Café, 2510 S. University Drive, Fargo.

  • Info: Visit www.myfirstlink.org.


    More information

    For help dealing with suicidal thoughts or loss from suicide:

  • (800) 273-TALK (8255): 24-hour suicide prevention lifeline

  • 235-SEEK (7335) or 2-1-1: 24-hour information and referral


    More events planned

    FirstLink’s “Walk of Hope” isn’t the only suicide prevention event this month in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

    The “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” will be held on Sept. 26, beginning at the main shelter in Fargo’s Lindenwood Park.

    Similar “Out of the Darkness” walks will take place in more than 200 communities across the country this fall, with proceeds benefitting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

    The walk begins at 2 p.m. Online registration closes at 11:45 p.m. the day before the walk, but anyone can register in person at the walk beginning at 1 p.m., according to the organization’s website.

    Walk donations are accepted until Dec. 31.

    Additional information on “Out of the Darkness” can be found at www.outof

    thedarkness.org.

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