By BRIAN WALKER
COEUR d'ALENE — Jason and Jaimie Farnsworth are doing their part to break the silence on suicide.
The Rathdrum couple lost their 16-year-old daughter Haley to suicide a year ago.
They were among more than 400 who participated in Saturday's ninth annual Break the Silence Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk hosted by the Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN) of North Idaho at Riverstone Park.
The number is a significant increase in attendance at the event from previous years.
"A couple months (after Haley's death), we wanted to bring whatever awareness we can about the tragedy of suicide," said Jason, adding they have distributed more than 10,000 bracelets and are involved in SPAN.
Jaimie said priorities to change the tide on suicide include altering a stigma about seeking help for depression, educating gun shop owners and educators on the signs of at-risk behaviors, assisting families after loved ones receive mental care and sharing personal stories of suicide to let people they are not alone.
"We live in a culture that says, 'Pull your bootstraps and deal with it,'" she said. "The mental stigma is that we shouldn't need help. But we want to bridge those gaps of mental health and suicide."
The Farnsworths and their supporters wore buttons in memory of Haley and made signs with her photo to create awareness about suicide.
"Our daughter was bullied," Jason said. "If we can change the mind of one person contemplating suicide, then it's worth it. There are resources out there.
"It's uncomfortable to talk about suicide, but it's OK to talk about it, especially with youth."
Idaho is consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates, according to the Department of Health and Welfare. The state had the fifth-highest rate in the nation in 2015 and it was 57 percent higher than the national average.
North Idaho had 37 suicides in 2016.
Between 2012 and 2016, 105 Idaho children between 6 and 18 died by suicide. Twenty-seven of those deaths were among children 14 and younger.
Jaimie said what drove the couple to be open about suicide was the ripple effect it has on families and to create awareness to help others.
Coeur d'Alene Press Managing Editor Mike Patrick and his wife, Sholeh, lost son Jay to suicide in 2012. Patrick said there are lessons to be learned from Jay, who was a newspaper reporter and excelled in soccer.
His son, Patrick said, made him more aware to help others.
"He taught us that how somebody dies doesn't matter," Patrick said. "It's how you live your life that matters."
Patrick said sometimes people can try to do their very best and still feel like a failure. But the tragedy also taught him that, in the rubble of failures, love endures.
Patrick thanked attendees for their support and breaking the silence that surrounds suicide.
"Thank you for helping me honor my son," he said. "Let's go out in the world and see if we can do something good."
Coeur d'Alene's Stacey Gardner and daughter Cori participated in the walk for the third time in memory of their son and brother Chad.
"It's not that I don't think of him every day, but I want to feel that Chad is watching us do something," Stacey said, donning a shirt with a photo of her son. "It's nice to be able to come out and talk with others. I didn't realize that this many people is affected by suicide."
Cori said the feeling of togetherness at the walk is special.
"It gives people comfort to help grieve with others who are going through the same thing," she said. "For a lot of people, this is the first time to talk about it and, once you do that, you feel more comfortable about spreading the word."
Randy and Shona Colee supported the Farnsworths at the walk. Shona said that when she was 18 she attempted suicide.
"There's hope," she said softly. "Don't give up. A split-second decision could have prevented me from having my husband and beautiful boys."
Randy said Haley's death and others have brought to light how serious of an issue suicide is in North Idaho.
"We had no idea … ," he said.
Jason was touched by the large turnout for the awareness walk despite the uncertainty of smoky skies and poor air quality.
"This gives us purpose with our grief," he said.