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Event focuses on suicide prevention

September 18, 2018

Carrie Hancock lights a candle in memory of a loved one lost to suicide on Saturday at the Out of the Darkness Walk.

Friends and families gathered at the Chautauqua Park Tabernacle in Beatrice Saturday to laugh, cry, share stories and remember their loved ones lost to suicide.

The Out of the Darkness Walk is a fundraiser for the American Federation for Suicide Prevention. In the 11th year in Beatrice, funds are used to support research and education that saves lives.

“Without all of you this walk would not happen” said Melissa Carlson, organizer of the event. “Thank you all for your strength, energy and passion to come together for this cause. We are one community coming together to make a difference.”

Jeremy and Bailey Koch, of Cozad, spoke about their experiences with severe depression. From 2009 to 2012, Jeremy had five suicide attempts and a near death car accident.

“We are christian advocates for mental health. It is not something that we asked for, but we had to make the awful things in our life make a difference,” said Bailey.

Jeremy told of a memory from his childhood when his grandmother was diagnosed with depression.

“Sssh… we don’t talk about it” was his mother’s instruction. And “that began the stigma that I had as a child with mental illness,” Jeremy said.

Beginning in 2009, Jeremy had worked with doctors to find the right medication for his severe depression, however, his suicidal thoughts continued.

In 2012 he was involved in a serious car accident.

“Jeremy doesn’t remember anything about that time and I am so thankful that God has protected him from that,” said Bailey. “I remember falling to my knees and saying ‘God, I can’t do this anymore’.”

In September of 2012 he wrote a suicide note to his wife just before his final attempt.

“I have amazing children and a wife that I love,” Bailey read. “He thought he was protecting me in his my mind. I finally understood that his mental illness had created a distorted reality for him.”

Bailey continued that she no longer sees people who choose suicide as selfish.

“They are in pain and they just want to end that. We have to reach out and make sure people know there is help,” Bailey said.

The couple wrote their first book, “Never Alone”.

“The book is about healing,” said Bailey.

“We found a support group with NAMI or the National Alliance for Mental Illness and we started talking about it,” Jeremy said. “In 2015 we went to California and had a brain scan with Dr. Ahmen. They have the technology to diagnose and treat the areas of the brain that weren’t working.”

“The three things that I found that make a difference for me are faith, a large support network to talk with, and the combination of medication, diet and exercise,” Jeremy said.

Jeremy said his support network involved his wife and family, a pastor, a counselor, a psychiatrist, a group of peers and many others.

“I learned that I am not there to make sure he is okay. It cannot be solely my responsibility,” said Bailey. “I don’t need him, but I want him. I choose him.”

Bailey used the couple’s son, Asher, as an example, asking if he looked like there was anything wrong with him.

“No, he looks fine, but he has epilepsy. We had to go to the doctor for treatment. The same is true of mental illness. You look normal, whatever that is, but you need to find the right medication and be treated,” she said.

“You are a part of the revolution,” Bailey said. “We are making a difference preventing suicides.”

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