Alaska's high rate of suicide affects every community in the state -- a toll remembered in Downtown Anchorage Saturday morning, when hundreds of people gathered at the Delaney Park Strip for a suicide prevention walk.
Sarah Gunkel set up a sign for her dad who she lost when she was 18. She said he was a wonderful father and had been open about his struggle with depression. Years, later the loss still stings.
"I feel like being a survivor of someone who has committed suicide is a different sort of pain," Gunkel said. "So konwing that there are other people that go through the same motions and feelings is huge."
Dennis Lasley got involved in the Alaska Chapter for Suicide Prevention after losing a close friend to suicide. As he looked at the memorial, he said it's still touching.
"You would think that you're doing okay and you see something like this and it just hits you again," Lasley said. "It's more emotional than I care to admit."
Lasley and Gunkel said seeing all the other survivors is healing. They said bringing the issue out in the open makes it less taboo. The hope is removing the stigma will help people suffering to speak out.
Teen Kathryn Casello works with fellow teens, telling them to reach out to their peers they see struggling. She also encourages young people who feel depressed to ask for help.
"The studies are showing what's important is a lot of peer-to-peer connection," Casello said.
Casello said she became interested in the topic after classmates struggled with the fallout of a suicide. She wanted to help teens help each other.
One way to do that is through wristbands that carry the Alaska's help line number. Casello encourages teens to take a wristband so they always have a resource for themselves or a friend.
"It's something that's heartbreaking and sad, but there are ways to change and to make a difference in our society," Casello said.
Survivors at the walk took off Saturday morning after hearing speeches from people like Casello who are working to change the trends. These survivors hope by talking about their grief, they can help others who struggle to find hope.