"Out of the Darkness" Walk Draws Awareness to Suicide Prevention

The statistics are alarming. In 2012 someone in the United States died by suicide every 13 minutes. Today, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and Wisconsin has one of the highest rates on the entire country. The devastating affects of suicide are even being felt in Marathon County, inspiring those touched by it to action.

Seventeen, the chilling number of suicides Marathon County saw in 2012. Nine, the number of suicides Marathon County has seen this year alone. Two-hundred and thirty, the number of people who came out to raise awareness for suicide prevention at the annual "Out of the Darkness" community walk.

Little Daisy lost her daddy to suicide on New Years Eve. She and her mom sported matching t-shirts for the walk, both with the words "I can and I will" printed on them.

"The night my fiance died, I was crying and my dad came in and I said 'I can't do this,' and he picked me up and he said you can and you will," Micaela Pelot explained.

Micaela and Daisy are far from alone in their grief. Many walkers sported shirts adorned with the names and pictures of loved ones. Haley Ciaramita lost her father to suicide before she was even born, but the meaning of the walk still hits home.

"It's a way to be connected to everyone who's been through it and support each other," Ciaramita tells NewsChannel 7.

That's exactly what founder Faye Bileddo was hoping for.

"I think that people need to know that we need to get to these people before it gets to the point where they're in the dark place or the tragedy has happened," Bileddo says adding, "And if it has affected a family, there is so many people that come out. The love and support that this group provides so that people can see that they're not alone."

Bileddo organized the first walk three years ago after learning first hand what suicide can do.

"I started it because of my nephew," Bileddo shares. "Six years ago he was a victim of suicide and our whole family was so devastated I just felt like I had to do something."

So she partnered up with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention and Prevent Suicide Marathon County, hoping to raise awareness and eliminate stigma.

"I think there's too many people not talking about it," Bileddo says. "There's too much shame because right away mental illness is something they try to shy away from. But I think that we need to bring awareness, education and prevention."

For Pelot, her message is simple, "Stay strong and don't stop."

Saturday's walk raised more than $12,000 for suicide education and prevention. Most of that money will come back to North Central Wisconsin and be used to implement more suicide prevention programs.

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