"Be a fighter."
The words echoed through a quiet crowd on Saturday as "Stomp That Stigma" walk participants bowed their heads in prayer in remembrance of those who have lost their lives to suicide.
The event began hours earlier with a number of speakers at M State-Detroit Lakes, including Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander and local residents who have struggled with mental health.
Glander reported that, in the last year, the Becker County Sheriff's Department responded to 335 welfare checks and 74 suicide-related phone calls. He said that the Detroit Lakes Police Department had, in the same time, responded to 317 welfare checks and 56 suicide-related calls. Following this statistic, a man in attendance stood and thanked the sheriff.
"If it weren't for you and your dispatchers," said the man, identified only as Todd, "I wouldn't be standing here right now. So, thank you."
Dave Erickson, Coordinator at Stellher Human Services, spoke about resources that are available in Becker and surrounding counties.
"Life can be wonderful and great, but it can be very painful at times," he said. "We're all in it together and it's an honor for me--as a crisis team member--to be able to help out in those times. Please make that call."
Another speaker, Kent Gronvold, spoke openly about his own suicide attempt.
"My struggles started when I was young," he said. "I was angry at the world and kind of fell into a rut of violence, drugs, alcohol--anything to not make myself feel... The biggest thing is that having a mental illness doesn't limit you or make you any less of parent or of a person. Today, everybody is here to battle against the stigma."
Following the speakers, those in attendance went on a short walk before returning to release doves in remembrance of those who have lost their lives to suicide. Overall, around 100 people attended the walk and raised a total of approximately $3,400 in honor of mental health awareness and suicide prevention according to Jessica Ekholm, who helped plan the walk. She added that there are still checks coming in, too, so that total will most likely continue to rise.
Ekholm said the money will go towards a program that will allow the Stomp That Stigma group to go into schools and speak with youth about mental health. Overall, the goal of the event was to ensure that people struggling with mental illness know they aren't alone and have the resources to ask for help.
"When people feel like they can't get help, they can fall down a dark path and sometimes it's a tragic one," said Gronvold. "It's okay to not be okay, though. You don't have to be perfect. You can be broken and still be loved."