Families Walk to Prevent Suicide

Families Walk to Prevent Suicide

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Carole Mikita ReportingThe subject of suicide is a difficult one for many people to discuss -- even so, Utah has one of the nation's highest overall rates of suicide.

One mother who lost a son is now trying to combat the stigma associated with suicides. Over the weekend she organized the first annual "Walk for Suicide Prevention." She says the walk was about healing and living.

Since 1956 the suicide rate for teens 15 to 19 has increased 256%. It's now the leading cause of death for men 15 to 25. Those who participated in the walk say society needs to take an active approach to preventing suicides.

Margaret Jackson, Mother, Walk Organizer: "He was just this magnet that drew people to him…He always had this sense of adventure and being young and full of energy.”

Eddie Jackson's mother describes a son active in athletics and drama, an excellent student who won several scholarships. From all appearances, not a person you would think suffered from depression.

Margaret Jackson: "As he got into high school we started to notice some mood swings and so we actually took him in and had him tested."

Eddie was eventually diagnosed with depression. His parents got him into counseling. He tried medication. Then he decided to enter the military and stopped taking his prescription. His mother says he thought he could control his depression through exercise and diet.

Margaret Jackson: "Everything appeared to be OK, but obviously everything wasn't OK."

On January 22, 2002 Eddie Jackson took his life. He was 24-years old. There appeared to be no warning signs.

Margaret Jackson: "We found out that he did tell someone and that guilt that person carries because you're not thinking that person is serious."

After her son died, Mrs. Jackson found mourning especially difficult because some family and friends did not want her to talk about Eddie or what had happened.

Margaret Jackson: "All their life they've been taught that depression is this horrible thing. It's like having leprosy."

Mrs. Jackson and her husband decided to use their pain to help other families suffering through the devastating effects of depression and suicide. With the help of Dr. Mac Gift, they organized the first annual "Walk for Suicide Prevention." More than 200 people showed up.

Dr. Mac Gift, Mental Health Association in Utah: "It was a very intense walk for some of the walkers. A lot of people were crying; a lot of the people were hugging each other. A lot of the people were supporting one another."

After the walk, a tree was planted in Memory Grove to remember those who are now gone and also to celebrate life.

Margaret Jackson: "In spite of the dark times in our lives, there is still hope."

The Jacksons hope that through increased awareness more lives can be saved. The 'Walk for Suicide Prevention' is expected to become an annual event.

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