EVERETT — As students head back to school each fall, Dawn Krivanek relives a flood of emotions. It was during this time three years ago that the Mukilteo mother lost her daughter Nina to suicide — just eight days into her sophomore year at Kamiak High School.
Since then, Krivanek has worked to spread her message that mental health should be a daily conversation, instead of taboo.
“There is still such stigma around mental health and suicide,” she said, “We need to continue to talk about it and share our stories.”
One way she’s going about that is by leading a team during the annual Out of Darkness Everett Walk. The event aims to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention, and to support families who are affected.
It is one of hundreds held each year around the country hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
It is open to everyone. Participants can walk as part of team or individually.
Everett’s walk will take place Saturday at the Port of Everett’s Boxcar Park. Check-in begins at 8:30 a.m. The event starts at 9:30 a.m. Registration is free and available at bit.ly/preventionEverett. Donations can also be made at that site.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention uses the donations to lobby elected officials, to fund research on mental heath diagnoses and treatment, and to run school programs, Krivanek said.
Krivanek’s entire family has gotten involved in the foundation. Her husband joined the board of the Washington chapter. Her oldest daughter, Julia, volunteers with the group helping run social media accounts. And her youngest, Tia, participates in the walk with Team Nina, which has raised more than $14,000 this year. The walk is also a space to share personal experiences.
“If we don’t talk about it and share our stories, people don’t realize that other people have dealt with this,” Krivanek said. “There are so many people that have dealt with or been touched by mental health and suicide.”
She urges other parents to watch for symptoms of depression such as stopping activities, not spending time with friends or wanting to be alone.
“It’s not just them being a teenager, but signs of depression,” Krivanek said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
Krivanek also wants to see the conversation start at an earlier age.
“To help kids before they get to a super dark place,” she said.
The rate of suicide among 15- to 24-year-olds tripled between 2012 to 2017 in Snohomish County, according to Wendy Burchill, an injury prevention specialist at the Snohomish Health District. For this age group, suicide ranks as the number two cause of death after accidents both in the county and statewide.
“We are now seeing middle school students (ages 12-14) dying by suicide where this was unheard of five years ago,” she said.
Confidential help is available to teens and adults with any emotional issue, including suicidal thoughts, by calling the Volunteers of America Care Crisis Line at 800-584-3578 or through the online chat site at imhurting.org.
More suicide prevention information is available on the Snohomish Health District website, snohd.org/200/Suicide-Prevention.