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Walkers support suicide victims

Shannon O'Brien | Monday, October 1, 2012

The Notre Dame chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-ND) held the Project Hope Suicide Awareness Walk yesterday to help promote awareness and spread faith and support for loved ones of suicide victims and those suffering from mental illnesses.

The two-mile walk started at the Rockne Memorial Gymnasium and concluded at the Grotto where a short prayer service and speeches took place. Money raised from the event will go to the Memorial Epworth Center, Oaklawn Foundation and Portage Manor, three local organizations that fight mental illness.

The event had a turnout of 200 people. Several families of suicide victims were present, some wearing t-shirts with pictures of their loved ones to honor their memory.

Senior Amanda Bruening, founder of NAMI-ND, participated in past events before coming to Notre Dame.

 “Originally, this was something I participated in at the University of Miami after my brother took his life, and it made me realize there was an active thing I could do to make a difference,” she said. “Since that walk was such a main foundation in me getting over my grief, I felt it necessary to have one on our own campus to help others.”

Alexandra del Pilar, a junior at Saint Mary’s College, said she believes groups like NAMI-ND  are crucial to college communities.

“I think it is very important for college-aged students to have a support group on campus, because here they are alone and do not have that strong support of their family,” she said.

Bruening said awareness on college campuses is important because of the young age of many suicide victims.

“The age of many suicide victims ranges from 15 [years] to early 20s.  For this reason, I think it’s so important for college campuses and communities to get involved,” Bruening said.

Tom Seeberg, father of St. Mary’s College student Lizzie Seeberg, who took her life in 2010, gave a speech about both his own struggles with his daughter’s death and the importance of prayer and hope.

“She got up every morning and punched life in the face,” Seeberg said about his daughter. “Her comment when confronting a problem was ‘So, what are we going to do about it?'”

Seeberg said mental illnesses could be combated by being better understood.

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. And this stigma of mental illness is the elephant in the room,” Seeberg said.

Julie Hersh, author of “Struck by Living” and columnistnfor Psychology Today, spoke about her own battle with mental illness and the waystin which it can be prevented.

“To protect ourselves against mental illness, the three most important things ar: sleep, nutritio, and exercise,” Hersh said. “One way we really can protect each other is kindness. When someone is in a suicidal state, you have no idea how much a hand on a shoulder for kind word can do. It creates a pause for them.”

Hersh ended her speech with motivation for all to help protect one another from mental illness.

“Create a pause that will create a space to save a life,” she said.

Contact Shannon O’Brien at