On Sunday, October 7, 2012, I attend a community walk called, “Out of the Darkness”, at Lake Erie Metro Park in Brownstown, Michigan.

“Proceeds from this event benefit the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION (AFSP), the leading national not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the understanding and prevention of suicide through research, education, and advocacy, and to reaching out to those suffering with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.”

SUICIDE CLAIMS MORE THAN 38,000 LIVES A YEAR. Did you know that? Think about that number for a minute . . . 38,000 lives every year.

Every 14.2 minutes, a person successfully takes their own life. And every minute of the day, a person attempts to take their own life. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And it is the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.

This event is personal to me because in 1996, my sister, Chris, took her own life. She was 38 years old. I still struggle with this loss, and the grief and torment that accompany it. And due to my struggles with bipolar disorder, I have come dangerously close to losing myself (1 of every 5 people suffering with bipolar disorder takes their own life).

From left: My sister, Chris, and me, as children.

Intelligent and compassionate Gerri Asam Trager is the organizer of the “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” for the downriver area. She and her amazing band of beautiful volunteers are the primary reason for this event’s huge success.

Gerri Asam Trager, on right. (Photo taken from AFSP Downriver Out of the Darkness Walk, Facebook event page, by Bob Eccles).


It is a cloudy, chilly day, but attendance is high, as are the spirits of the organizers, volunteers, and walkers.



This beautiful woman, Jaqueline Worthey, a poetry reader, graces the stage by reading a special poem every year at this event.



We are blessed with the kind and compassionate, former Detroit Lion’s football player, Eric Hipple, who speaks to us straight from the heart.


After losing his own 15-year-old son in 2000 to suicide, Hipple now travels the country and gives speeches to High Schools, Youth Groups, the U.S. Military, and Corporations, on suicide prevention and Mental Illness. His book, “Real Men Do Cry”, published in 2009, discusses his playing career with the Lions and his experiences with depression, grief, and suicide prevention.


We are then introduced to the lovely and extremely talented, NEENUH. There are no words to describe her beautiful voice.

Connect with Neenuh on Facebook. She performs solo shows (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica) around Downriver, MI. Search “Neenuh” on YouTube and you will find uploads of her videos.


And we are delighted by the amazing talent of Fiddler, Mick Gavin, who plays onstage AND along our walking path. Wonderful!

Gavin was born in Co. Clare, Ireland. Since the 1970’s, he has performed concerts with many traditional Irish performers in the Chicago and Detroit areas. Mick now teaches Irish fiddle throughout the Detroit metropolitan area. Three of his students took 2nd at the All-Ireland in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002.


The 3.5-mile walk begins on this gorgeous Autumn afternoon.



Even the canines walk the walk!



Afterwards, we are treated to hot food and refreshing beverages, and a safe place for good conversation. There is also a raffle which offers terrific prizes of food and services generously donated by some of our local restaurateurs and merchants.

We bond over our losses and experiences, but join together to celebrate life . . . and bring about change.




For information or to make a donation, (donations for walks can be made thru 12/31/12 for this year), contact:

GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter. Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.

If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss


Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Photography, Physical Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

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27 thoughts on “OUT OF THE DARKNESS

  1. Well written, my friend!

    • Thanks, Patti. I hope so. You know me . . . sitting here contemplating and debating every word and every pic. It just never feels good enough. You’re the best! Thanks for everything! xoxo Julia

  2. GREAT post, Julia. Sounds like a great event. I must emphasize how sad I AM to hear about your sister. I’m so sorry, my friend. Hugs to you, my dear!

    • Julia Kovach

      Thank you so much, Kathy. Wishing love and blessings to you and Sara! xoxo Julia

  3. What a wonderful blog that summarizes the beauty of that day. My friend who lost her brother and I (lost a spouse) walked for the first time and felt a compassion and a closeness with people who shared the same loss of a loved one. Geri Trager is truly amazing. Eric Hipple was the best. He inspired me to do something to help others, don’t just feel sad. Thanks for the photos to of the lovely Metro Park.

    • Thank you so much, Paula. I felt the same way about the closeness with others. And I was greatly impressed by everyone who was involved in the event. Gerri’s kind and gentle nature just seems to shine through to everyone around her. Thanks so much for your lovely comments. Take good care. xoxo Julia

  4. Beverly Peterson

    Important message. Thanks for posting

  5. Lynn Gardner

    Wonderfully written and presented, Julia! Wish I could have been there, thank goodness there are people that care enough to take time out of their busy lives and get this information out, you of course included. xoxo

    • Thank you, Lynn. These people are incredible, warm, compassionate…….I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this walk. I’ve never really talked about or written about Chris’s passing. But the event didn’t force anything and the people were an inspiration and a comfort. I was so glad that I attended. I hope to actually contribute something next year! Thanks for reading, my friend. xoxo Julia

  6. Joan Sondergaard

    And a good time was had by all!

    • Indeed, Joan! I met some cool new friends, had some great chats, a good walk, food, music….a great time! Thanks for your note! xo Julia

  7. Ohhh Julia – this post strikes very close to home. I too struggle with mental health issues (primarily ADHD these days but the primary use to be Bipolar 1) and when the bad renters come boy it’s hard not to want to be free sometimes. My birth mother committed suicide only a few months after I was born and her father committed suicide after a stroke back in 2001. It’s in the blood. Your pictures here are great and thank you for taking me along with you to such an important event/cause! Love that the doggies got into the act too!

    • Oh, Saymber, I’m so very sorry for your losses. Gosh, it’s just so tough. And so so sad. And dealing with these very difficult tragedies can be especially challenging as someone affected with bipolar disorder. I will be doing a blog on it soon….it’s been in the making for a while now. I think that you’re right, in a sense, about it being in the blood. Some of these mental health issues have a link genetically. But thank God, that with the right professional help, with support from our friends and loved ones, and with public awareness and the right kind of education, we can break this cycle of dysfunction and torment. We can talk about these things now. Bring it out of the darkness and into the light….where it loses its power and hold on us. You, my dear friend, please know, that you can always reach out to me. Thank you so much for sharing your story with me. May love, peace, and blessings…..be yours. xoxo Julia

      • saymber

        Big hug to you fellow traveler! Isn’t it great to have a medium like this to connect with folks facing such similiar things?! I say “ditto” to the reaching out. One of my strong beliefs is that part of the reason I’m here is to help others…be helped by others. Love, light and blessings through the wires Julia!

  8. Dolores Villalobos

    Great article Julia! I seen you at the walk but didn’t get a chance to talk with you. I have been volunteering with Gerri for seven years. The Out of the Darkness walks are a great way to channel energy into prevention. Whether you participate in the walk or volunteer, it is very healing. Thank you for experiencing the event and putting it into words and pictures. HOPE is the message that we wish to promote. Suicide is preventable and support for survivors is available. God bless you on your journey of healing.

    • Julia Kovach

      Thank you so much, Dolores! It’s a shame that we didn’t get a chance to chat at the walk, but I have a feeling that we’ll be meeting sometime in the future! HOPE is the message….and what I was feeling at the event. It was a baby step towards facing such a painful experience…and I walked the walk! lol Thanks for taking the time to read this and leaving such a wonderful note! Looking forward, my friend. xoxo Julia

  9. Vince

    Very good information Julia and very well written. Again I am so sorry for your loss. Last time I seen Chris was in 93 at a party store in Woodhaven. She had her two little girls with her. How are they doing? I’m still sad about her being gone but mostly I’m sad by how she left. I feel for you Julia. My prayers go out to you.

    • Thank you so much for your note, Vince. Chris’s oldest daughter, Tina, passed away from a drug overdose a few months before Chris took her life. It is all so very tragic. But her younger daughter is doing remarkably well. She has grown into a beautiful, young lady and mother, and lives in Oklahoma with her husband and three gorgeous children. She has created a good life for herself. I am so so proud of her. I may be seeing her for Thanksgiving this year. Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and prayers. I treasure them. xoxo Julia

  10. I had no idea the number was that high, Julia. Thanks for sharing. Sorry to hear you lost your sister in this way. Hugs! Oh, and thanks for following my blog. 🙂

  11. Hi Julia,

    I what to say thank you for a wonerful articles you did. I was there for my friend Gerri Trager, to do the walk. That was my first time and I did learn that we are not alone. They were amazing. I did lost my baby brother 3 year ago in October month. All I what to say thanks for the articles and pictures and also thanks to Terry forward this information. I did forward to my friend at work. THANKS Patty and Carley

    • Patty! It’s so nice to hear from you! It was wonderful to meet you at the walk. It was also my first walk. I really didn’t intent to blog about it, but how could I not? I’ve heard wonderful things about you and Carley and your amazing fund-raising efforts….I find you admirable, warm, and simply an incredible person. Maybe I could talk to you sometime about doing a blog about you and Carley? What would you think about that? Take good care, my new friend. I hope to see you again real soon! xoxoJulia

  12. Hi Julia,

    You have a great blog, and are doing and saying important things. I thank you for the follow on Writing Between the Lines, and look forward to following your blog.

    • Thank you, Naomi. I really appreciate your kind words and support. It’s such a pleasure to meet you and to READ you! lol Take care! xoJulia

  13. Just a few weeks ago I had to deal with this up close and personal with a person close to me — a suicide threat. Thank you, Julia, for bringing these events to our attention.

    • Darla, I am so sorry to hear that you’ve had a loved one who was in crisis. I hope that they are finding help. Please pass along the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number to them (post it on their refrigerator – don’t even ask!) 1-800-273-(TALK) 8255. I wish you and your loved one all the best now and in the days to come. They are lucky to have someone in their life who is as warm and loving as you. Thank you for reading my blog and sharing your words. You all have become my lifeline. And I appreciate it more than you know. xoJulia

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