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Out of the darkness: Lisa Brattain preps for 10th suicide prevention walk, shares story of personal loss

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By Sadie Hunter

It’s been nearly a decade since Lisa Brattain lost her son, Kurt, to suicide.

And this year, Brattain, a Noblesville resident, will walk for the 10th time along the White River Canal in Indianapolis for the American Foundation’s for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walk, a 5K, Sept. 10. She is the founder and regional director of the Indiana Chapter.

When Brattain became involved in the second year of the walk in 2007, 120 people participated in the walk along the White River Canal, and that was the only walk in the state at the time.

“Probably 50 of those people were us,” she said. “You know, Kurt’s friends and our family and stuff. I think that walk raised about $16,000 for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. Last year’s Indy walk raised $204,000 and had 3,000 walkers.”

Brattain said there are now multiple walks throughout the state, not just in Indianapolis.

“So the first year we had 120 people, and last year we had over 8,000 (nationally),” she said.

Brattain’s son Kurt died in December 2006 at age 19.

“He was diagnosed with depression as a freshman in high school and died as a freshman in college,” she said. “He was a football player and rugby player and had tough-guy syndrome and didn’t want to talk about his mental illness because he felt like it was a character flaw. We didn’t understand the illness to be an actual illness, and we weren’t having the right dialogue about that.”

Kurt was a 2006 graduate of Noblesville High School. At the time of his death, he was a student at Ivy Tech and planned to transfer to culinary school in Chicago. Shortly after his death, Kurt’s older sister discovered AFSP. At that point, Brattain said she became curious and started looking into AFSP. She realized there was an opportunity for the family to get involved.

“I meet survivors that really struggle with their loss and sometimes become very isolated with their loss, who possibly even go 10, 20 years without really coping with that loss. It’s a horrible kind of grief and hard to process. I didn’t respond in a normal way to the grief because I didn’t become isolated at all. I was actually charged by it, and I think that charge came from, because I’m a paralegal by nature, me wanting to understand (Kurt’s) illness better. You know, how did we go from depressed to suicide? We never had that conversation. We never even said that word. We were managing his illness like he had high blood pressure, not like he had what could potentially be a fatal illness.”

The annual walk is AFSP’s largest event of the year. The 3.1-mile walk is casual, not a race. Registration begins at 2 p.m., the opening ceremony begins at 3 p.m., and the walk is complete by 4:30 or 5 p.m. Registration is free, but the event is the chapter’s signature fundraiser and pays for all programming and operations throughout the year.

For more, visit afsp.org.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • 368: Walks nationwide.
  • 23: Walks in Indiana each year, 12 in the fall and 11 in the spring.
  • 86: Chapters of AFSP across the nation.
  • 19: Age of Kurt Brattain when he died.
  • 8,000: Number of people who participate in walks nationally.
  • 3,000: Number of people who participated in the Indianapolis walk last year.

TIMELINE

  • 1987: Kurt Brattain is born. AFSP is founded in New York.
  • 2004: Out of the Darkness walks begin nationally.
  • 2006: AFSP hosts its first Out of the Darkness walk in Indianapolis. Kurt Brattain dies.
  • 2007: Lisa Brattain starts the Indiana chapter of AFSP.
  • 2008: The Indiana chapter of AFSP is officially chartered.
  • 2016: Lisa Brattain becomes an AFSP regional director.

INTERNATIONAL SURVIVOR DAY

Each year, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts an event where people affected by suicide gather within their communities to share their stories.

“Senator Harry Reid from Nevada did the Senate mandate for International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day in 1998 after he lost his father to suicide,” Lisa Brattain said. “So we have those events all across the country.”

Locally, International Survivor Day events will take place in Chesterton, Ind., Princeton, Ind., Fort Wayne and Indianapolis Nov. 19. For more, visit afsp.org.


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