ONALASKA, Wisc. (WLAX) — September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a topic that hits close to home for Sarah Meza.
Meza is an organizer of the annual Mini Donut Half Marathon in Onalaska and Trempealeau, which she helped start after suffering an unexpected loss in her family.
“My uncle was the mini donut guy at all of the local fairs, and he had all these mini donuts,” Meza said. “We lost him to suicide about eight years ago, and we just wanted to do something to bring awareness to mental health.”
This year’s event was held Saturday morning. It was a chance for people who have dealt with a loss from suicide to bond with others who have had similar experiences.
“A lot of times people feel like they can’t talk about it, our event gives people a safe place,” she said.
The event also raised awareness about preventions resources in the community such as Great Rivers 211. Line supervisor Amy Kuester said Great Rivers provides a confidential outlet for anyone who is going through a crisis.
“It can be difficult for an individual to call a friend or a family member, they may feel like this person doesn’t understand, or I don’t want to burden this person,” Kuester said.
Staff members can connect callers to other community resources or simply speak to them about their troubles.
“We are all trained to talk to individuals with a non-judgmental, empathetic, patient ear,” she said.
Kuester said she is proud of the work being done at Great Rivers and the impact it has across the Coulee Region.
“It is very valuable to have somebody that will tell you that you’ve saved my life today,” she said.
Great Rivers offers community information and referrals 24 hours a day, and also provides a 24/7 crisis hotline for those in need.