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Footsteps in Muskegon: A walk for suicide awareness

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MUSKEGON, Mich. -- Dozens of people were walking around the streets of downtown Muskegon on Wednesday night in an effort to raise awareness about suicide.

September is Suicide Awareness Month, and that's especially relevant in Muskegon County, where, according to the Muskegon Suicide Prevention Coalition, the suicide rate in the county is 56% higher than the national average.

It's a topic Lori Venderweele never thought she would talk about: the death of her son.

"This is my son Austin," she said while holding a picture of her son. "He took his life on June 22, 2012.  He was just short of his 23rd birthday."

Austin was a graduate of North Muskegon High School and suffered from bipolar disorder.

"He just couldn't handle the pain anymore, and so he took his own life," she said.

Venderweele was one of the many walking the streets in Muskegon in remembrance of her son and others who have died from suicide.

Gretchen Olson helped organize the event. "We definitely need to have more walks like this, and we definitely need to raise more awareness."

It's part of the 'UR Important Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Walk' put on by the Suicide Prevention Coalition and Survivors of Suicide on the Lakeshore Support Group.

The idea behind it is to get people to ask questions about a topic people are often afraid to talk about.


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