NEBRASKA CITY – Over 150 gathered at Arbor Lodge State Park for a Memorial Day walk to counter the stigma linked to mental health crises and encourage agents of hope.

Stephanie Roth gave herself less than 60 days to organize the first Shine Your Light Nebraska City event after the sorrow of suicide continued to pile up on her friends and her community.

Roth: “ I want everyone to spread hope and break the stigma. I want everyone to know that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to ask for help, not be ashamed.”

 

 

While society tends to honor individual accomplishment and competitiveness, Dr. Kelly Tamayo of Complete Behavioral  Health said it is other people who can draw a person out of the feeling of hopelessness that can anchor severe depression.

 

She said the country is experiencing higher rates of suicide among former military service members because the trauma of their experience on duty can make it difficult to relate to people when they get back home. 

Tamayo: “… anxiety and depression cause us to become self-focused. It causes us to retreat within ourselves and it depletes us of the mental energy to think flexibly and to think optimistically about our future.”

Tamayo: “You guys are here today because you are a catalyst for change. You guys are a leader in the business of mental health. You guys are selling hope  and I want you to keep selling hope because that’s what everybody needs.”

Some people suffer for years with severe depression and others for their entire lifetime.

 

Cathy Martin and her daughter Victoria told the walkers about 22-year-old Garret Sulsberger, a son and brother that lost his decade-long fight against depression on Oct. 8, 2023.

Martin read the message she gave at her son’s funeral about the toll of mental illness that is driving suicide to be among the leading causes of death in the United States.

Martin: “We are not alone and even though it takes a lot to get through it there is hope. If you can offer hope, it can re-instill your faith. Our community has lost a lot of soldiers in this war, soldiers that have cared so much but lost to addiction and depression.”

Roth said she plans to hold the event every year until the stigma against those suffering mental illness and the affliction of suicide are gone.