Suicide Prevention Network memory walk brings journey full circle for one organizer
by Joey Crandall, firstname.lastname@example.org
As she listened to her friends speak, she knew there was more to it than high school drama.
They’d say things, scary things, that sounded a whole lot more like suicide than exaggeration.
“I didn’t know how to help them,” said Danielle Lozano, looking back four years to when she a 16-year-old student at Douglas High School. “I had friends struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide and I didn’t know what to do.”
Lozano was taking Keith Cole’s Advanced Placement Psychology course at the time and through the class was introduced to the Living Out Loud, a bi-monthly teen support group for ages 14 and up presented by the Suicide Prevention Network of Douglas County.
“I thought it would be a great way to gain the tools I needed to talk with my friends,” Lozano said. “I learned that you can talk about suicide and that it should be talked about. That’s how you reach out and help people.
“I learned it was OK to be direct and ask if they were thinking about suicide. I learned not to be afraid of opening up the conversation, that I wasn’t going to cause a suicide by asking the question.
“I was able to go through training on what signs to look for and the red flags that can pop up. I finally felt like I was equipped to help my friends and I didn’t feel lost or helpless when I listened to them.”
The training was put into use while Lozano was still in high school.
“He would always play video games and one day he just stopped,” Lozano said. “He stopped hanging out with his friends, he stopped doing the things he liked to do. He just started withdrawing from everything.”
She said her time in Living Out Loud had taught her to recognize the signs of someone contemplating suicide.
Her friend attempted suicide by taking a large dose of prescription drugs.
“I didn’t live by him, but was able to call someone to pick him up and take him where he needed to go for help,” she said. “I was able to draw on the resources I’d been presented with through Living Out Loud.
“Nothing can prepare you for the way you’ll feel emotionally in that moment. But, having the tools and knowing the steps I should take, it helped me think more clearly when you are in that situation.”
Her friend survived and has not re-attempted in the years since.
“He was able to get the help he needed,” she said. “He pushed people away for a while after, I think because he was either scared or embarrassed, but he has slowly opened back up.
“I think he was grateful for how many friends surrounded him and were there for him. When those thoughts of suicide set in, you can really start to feel alone. I think it was eye-opening for him to see how many people were there for him and cared for him. I think it had a great effect moving forward, knowing that he had a strong support system.
“Most people do, but they can’t see it in the moment because of the place they are in.”
Lozano is preparing to finish her Bachelors degree in psychology at Seattle University this year. Her plan is to focus on grief counseling and suicide prevention.
Heading into this past summer, she re-connected with Suicide Prevention Network executive director Debbie Posnien and came back into the Minden office as an intern.
Aside from working with the Living Out Loud group, and some of the other support groups offered by the network, Lozano has been helping to organize the eighth annual Walk in Memory, Walk in Hope, which is set for Saturday, Sept. 13.
“Debbie had helped me out so much when I was in high school, and I know in a non-profit she can always use more help,” Lozano said. “It just made sense to give back to the organization that helped inspire me.”
Posnien noted that the original purpose behind the creation of the network was to equip and inspire advocates like Lozano to be involved and available to their peers.
This year’s walk, which starts at 8 a.m. Saturday with registration on the Carson Valley Historical Museum lawn (1477 Highway 395, Gardnerville), will be complimented by a Breakfast for Hope ($6 adults, $3 kids 10 and younger).
Resource and information exhibits will also open at 8 a.m. The walk, which carries a suggested $20 donation (includes T-shirt), starts with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. For a suggested donation of $12, memorial signs can be dedicated to those lost to suicide. Signs will be displayed during the walk and three to four days after the walk.
This year’s them is “Kites,” with the kite representing individuals lost to suicide and the string representing the connection to the memories the living still have.
New this year are a number of raffle prizes. All proceeds go toward the Suicide Prevention Network, which in the past year provided resources to 157 community members at high risk for suicide.
“That’s been the focus this summer, just planning out the detail, making the kites and the signs, figuring out the raffle prizes,” Lozano said. “Working with the teen group as an adult, that’s been very interesting and fun.
“The group has evolved and there are new participants and new leaders and they all bring parts of themselves to it. It’s cool seeing them take it over and shape it, and seeing the potential it has.”
Lozano returns to Seattle University later this month and hopes to move on the graduate school and eventually earn Family and Marriage therapy certification.
“I’ve always, my entire life, wanted to help people,” she said. “Getting into this specific field of grief and suicide and seeing how many people have been impacted by it, it’s important to me because I see it around me a lot.
“It’s something at the start I felt like I could make a difference in just by learning more about it. My two years in Living Out Loud as a student, it helped inspire and shape what I am going to be doing in the future. When I tell people what I want to go into, with suicide prevention, it always kind of takes them off guard. But when you go out and see the impact on some of the lives, and when you consider what is really at stake, it makes all the crying and hard times worth it.”
The Living Out Loud teen group meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month right after school at the Suicide Prevention Network office, 1702 County Road, Suite A3 (right across from Douglas High School).
Correction (Sept. 8, 9:16 p.m.): The suggested donation for memory signs was initially listed incorrectly above as $20. The true suggested donation for the signs is $12.
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