Hospital and Health Care Staff Walk to Bring Suicide Out of the Darkness

Nov. 23, 2018- This year, hundreds of hospital caregivers and health care employees are walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walks. That’s because a group of passionate employees at Providence St. Joseph Health, the nation’s largest health system, are stepping up to address a health crisis they experience first-hand in their work.

In an industry that talks a lot about mental health, our goal at PSJH is to “walk the talk” so that the community understands they are not alone in dealing with mental illness and suicide. The employees at PSJH are taking meaningful action. What started with a few local walk teams has grown to include more than a dozen teams across seven states, and has to date raised over $40,000 together.

Teams are made up of staff from PSJH’s local hospitals, clinics and other health care services. Team captains include nurses, administration leaders, doctors and mental health workers. Together they are donating hours of their time to throw team events and fundraisers, post flyers, and present to hospital and community groups, all to raise awareness of suicide within and beyond the hospital walls.

“Our communities can no longer endure the devastation of suicide. With someone dying by suicide every 12.8 minutes in the U.S., we can’t afford to be silent. I’m proud our caregivers are coming together for the Out of Darkness Walks to show our communities they’re never alone in dealing with mental illness and suicide. I invite everyone – including those who work in health care and those who care about this problem – to take a step in the right direction and walk with us,” said Rod Hochman, M.D., president and CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health.

Here, in their own words, are some of the people participating, and what walking for suicide prevention means to them:

Nancy Yates, Chief Nursing Information Officer
Providence St. Patrick Hospital & Providence Medical Group Team Co-Captain, Missoula Out of the Darkness Walk

“My son Zackary died by suicide in 2011. Our family has been forever changed by suicide, and because of that, we are committed to raising hope and awareness that suicide is preventable. We walk to honor Zack’s life. Our intention is to bring suicide out of the darkness and to advocate with the hope that we can prevent one mother or one family from having to endure the pain and agony of being a suicide loss survivor.”

Peter Snyder, Director of Neurobehavioral Medicine
Providence St. Patrick Hospital & Providence Medical Group Team Co-Captain, Missoula Out of the Darkness Walk

“Most of us have lost a friend or family member to suicide. We have also become acutely aware of the frequency of suicide and suicides attempts through our work as health care professionals, or family members of health care workers. We have witnessed the intense anguish, sadness, pain and suffering of the survivors when someone dies by suicide. We have developed an intensely passionate and compassionate team, many of whom are on the front lines of identifying patients at risk for suicide, responding to people experiencing a suicide crisis, or working with grieving surviving family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Michelle Hamilton, LICSW
Providence Health & Services Northwest Washington Team Co-Captain, Everett Out of the Darkness Walk

“I work in the mental health field, with people struggling with suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. I have the training and skillset to identify behaviors and symptoms suggestive of an individual who may be having thoughts of, or plans to, end their life. I was confident I would be able to identify if anyone I loved reached that level of desperation. I was wrong.

My adoptive son ended his life by suicide. He is the reason I walk. I know suicide can happen to anyone, but never once considered it could impact my own family so intimately.

The Out of the Darkness Walks bring suicide into the light. We need to raise awareness and to educate, so that we may stop dismissing opportunities to reach out when we see someone struggling. I walk so that the end of my son’s short life is given a purpose. So that my family’s loss may help someone else survive. So that we are able to recognize that suicide does not discriminate.”

Laura Knapp, Manager of Care Management
Providence Health & Services Northwest Washington Team Co-Captain, Everett Out of the Darkness Walk

“As a behavioral health clinician, I have seen firsthand that there is hope even in immense suffering, and that there is freedom in bringing suicide to light. I walk to give a voice to those who feel unheard, and because I believe it is possible to have a world where there is no death by suicide.”

Connie Bartlett, DO, Pediatrician
Providence St. Joseph Health Team Captain, Orange County Out of the Darkness Walk

“I am a wife, mother, and a physician. At work, I experience firsthand the impact of mental health in my young patients and their families. This past June, my daughter’s friend in college died by suicide. His death was a catalyst for me to step up and do my job as a children’s caregiver and advocate. We have to bring suicide into the light and create safe venues for families to come and be educated about resources available for at-risk individuals. It is my hope and dream to make suicide a ‘NEVER’ event.”

Erin Wesen, Communication Manager
Providence St. Joseph Health Team Captain, Seattle Out of the Darkness Walk

“Looking back on my brother’s suicide in 2010, I can clearly see what I should have done differently. But, like almost everyone else, I had many misconceptions about suicide. This is why I volunteer as a team captain for the Seattle Out of the Darkness Walk: to raise awareness about suicide and how to prevent it. It is my hope that we never again miss the warning signs.”

Brittney Neidhardt-Gruhl, LICSW, Swedish Medical Group
Team Captain, Seattle Out of the Darkness Walk

“I am a licensed clinical social worker who has worked in the mental health field for over 14 years. I have unfortunately lost clients and patients to suicide. I have also lost friends. I have attended funerals with my younger siblings for friends they have lost to suicide. We need to do more to educate, treat and prevent it as a society. This event brings awareness to the issue. I’m hopeful that we can help people to feel less alone and more likely to ask for help. I hope in the future we can discuss mental health in the same way we talk about heart disease or diabetes.”

Kathy Welch, ICU Nurse
Providence St. Joseph Health Team Captain, Santa Monica Out of the Darkness Walk

“My son, David Sliff, was 23 when he died by suicide Dec. 31, 2017. David was an extraordinary young man who was studying to become a physicist. He wanted to help make the world a better place.

Even being acutely aware of his depression, and an ICU nurse for 22 years who has cared many times for suicide loss survivors and their families, I wasn’t able to save him. People say, ‘You did everything you could have,’ but I will always wish I had done more. I am committed to helping others through AFSP, an organization devoted to research, education, and other efforts to save lives.”

Dora Barilla, DrPH, Group Vice President, Community Health Investment
Providence St. Joseph Health Team Captain, Pasadena Out of the Darkness Walk

“I walk because the words are hard to find. I am walking with many others to send a message that it is okay to reach out for help, there is hope, and you are loved. We come together to walk as a symbol of hope and optimism that we will find our way. Collectively as a community we will find ways to stop the pain.”

To find an AFSP Out of the Darkness Walk near you, click here.

Learn how Providence St. Joseph Health is advancing the future of mental health.


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