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HomeCommunityLove Life Hosts Inaugural Suicide Awareness Walk in Two Harbors

Love Life Hosts Inaugural Suicide Awareness Walk in Two Harbors

It’s a sad reality that many of us are affected by someone we know, di­rectly or indirectly, who has taken their own lives. Suicide has a rip­ple effect that starts within families and friends and spreads across the community. It’s not an easy thing to process, which may be one reason that it’s not always something peo­ple are willing to talk about. The stigma attached to mental illness and suicide is another heartbreak among the tragedy.

In an effort to address that stigma and bring awareness to suicide and suicide prevention, a local group called Love Life got together to or­ganize a Suicide Awareness Walk. The community event is scheduled for May 18th at Lakeview Park in Two Harbors from 9:00-11:00 AM.

The founder of Love Life, Julia “JJ” Jones, was deeply affected by suicide when someone very close to her ended their life in 2013. “I thought I knew everything about him,” she said. “It kind of hit me like a ton of bricks.”

JJ is originally from Arizona and moved to Two Harbors in 2007. She calls it her second home. “When I lost him, I had friends reach out to me and give me the right re­sources and tools,” she said. “They suggested I go to the Carlton Sui­cide Awareness walk.”

The event that takes place in the fall in Carlton, MN celebrated its 15th year in 2023. When JJ attend­ed, she knew she wanted to bring a similar event to Two Harbors. She learned that she knew the organizer Meghann Levitt, whose husband is a Two Harbors resident. “I’m very passionate about the cause,” JJ said. “It’s been over ten years and I wanted to bring something to this community.”

Meghann was able to help JJ by pro­viding an agenda for planning the event and resources to assist. “She said, you can’t do this by yourself,” JJ recalled. Meghann suggested she organize a board of like-minded people who would want to help. She also advised that profession­als, such as police officers or EMTs who are closer to suicide and men­tal health situations, be on hand.

It wasn’t hard for JJ to drum up community members to join her cause. With seven members on the board, each affected by suicide, the suicide awareness walk was be­ginning to take shape. A potato bar fundraiser (where I was too late to get a potato, but had a lot of time to talk with some of the board mem­bers) was put together to raise mon­ey for expenses related to the event.

They couldn’t believe the turnout. They quickly sold out of potatoes, the 50/50 drawing raised $1,000, other raffles were sold, and some were donating cash, potato bar or no, just to support. “The people of Two Harbors really know how to come together to support a cause!” said Jenna Kendall, a board mem­ber of Love Life. Any additional funds raised after expenses are cov­ered will be donated to a mental health organization.

The walk is about one mile, on a paved path, and will start and end at Lakeview Park. There will be men­tal health booths and speakers to share resources with attendees. It is not required to walk. Light refresh­ments have been donated by Kwik Trip. All are welcome, including kids, as there will be activities available for them to participate in. There is no cost to join the event.

“A majority of people find this cause important,” Sydney Hicks, another Love Life board member, said. “It’s not every day that we can all get together and show a unified front for one another.”

Sydney works at the Birch Tree Center, a mental health facility that provides crisis stabilization to adults experiencing a mental health crisis or emergency. She has also been affected by suicide after the death of a close friend. “Suicide has impacted this town and the North Shore,” she said. “We’re hoping this will be something that will help break the stigma around suicide and mental health in general.”

“We want them to know they are not alone,” JJ added. “The support is the main thing. I see that tonight. All of the support that showed up for us.”

Resources will be provided at the walk and a mental health profes­sional will be on hand as emo­tions can run high at these types of events.

When a recent tragedy hit really close to home for Jenna’s family, she had questions about how to support her son through his grief.

“I am very passionate about break­ing the stigma about mental health,” Jenna, whose son is 17, wrote to me after our interview. “I want him and his peers to never feel ashamed or feel it’s a weakness to ask for help if they were to ever get into a dark place. I want teens and young adults to know it’s ok to not be okay. I want them to know there isn’t something wrong with them. They are always loved, they are always wanted here with us, and there is always help.”

Love Life’s slogan is “Mental Ill­ness…once we change the ‘I’ in illness to ‘We,’ we have wellness.” The group encourages the commu­nity to help foster that wellness by attending the Suicide Awareness Walk and just being there for some­one.

“It’s as small as something like ask­ing how someone’s day is going,” Sydney said. “Or smiling at some­one at the grocery store.”

JJ is hoping the event will become an annual one and be something the area adopts as its own. She dreams it will be, “For the community, by the community, and back to the community.”

For more information, visit the “Two Harbors Suicide Awareness Walk” event on Facebook. If you or someone you know may need help, dial 988 or 844-772-4724 for resources and assistance.

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