#WhyIWalk: Out of the Darkness Walk Team Captain Testimonials

Providence Health Team

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and Providence St. Joseph Health is proud to sponsor the Out of the Darkness Walks. The Out of the Darkness Walks are a journey of hope and healing that unites communities and acknowledges the ways in which suicide and mental illness have affected our lives and our loved ones.

This effort would not be possible without our volunteer team captains. Learn why they walk and volunteer as a team captain. Whether they have lost a loved one to suicide, or they see the impacts of first-hand with their patients and colleagues, they all share a vision for a world without suicide.  We thank them for their leadership in bringing suicide out of the darkness and into the light.






Nancy Yates, Chief Nursing Information Officer
Providence St. Patrick Hospital & Providence Medical Group Team Co-Captain, Missoula Out of the Darkness Walk

#WhyIWalk: My son Zackary died by suicide in 2011. Our family has been forever changed by suicide, and because of that, we are committed to raising hope and awareness that suicide is preventable. We walk in the Out of the Darkness Walk to honor Zack’s life. Our intention is to bring suicide out of the darkness and to advocate with the hope that we can prevent one mother or one family from having to endure the pain and agony of being a suicide loss survivor.






Peter Snyder, Director of Neurobehavioral Medicine
Providence St. Patrick Hospital & Providence Medical Group Team Co-Captain, Missoula Out of the Darkness Walk

Why we walk and support suicide prevention efforts is for a multitude of reasons.  Most of us have lost a friend or family member to suicide.  We have also become acutely aware of the frequency of suicide and suicides attempts through our work as health care professional or family members of health care workers.  We have witnessed the intense anguish, sadness, pain and suffering of the survivors when someone dies by suicide.  For many of us our life’s mission is to prevent suicides and have developed an intensely passionate and compassionate team.  Many of the team members are on the front lines of identifying patients at risk for suicide, responding to people experiencing a suicide crisis, or working with the grieving surviving family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers.






Michelle Hamilton, LICSW
Providence Health & Services Northwest Washington Team Co-Captain, Everett Out of the Darkness Walk

#WhyIWalk: I work in the mental health field. I work with people struggling with suicidal thoughts on a regular basis. I have the training and skillset to identify behaviors and symptoms suggestive of an individual who may be having thoughts of, or plans to, end their life. I was of the belief this skillset carried into my personal life. I was confident I would be able to identify if anyone I loved had reached that level of desperation. I was wrong.

The night after making weekend plans with my adoptive son, he ended his life by suicide. He is the reason I walk. In the midst of my grief, I also had to process guilt and shame by asking myself: “Mental health is what I do. How did I miss the signs? How do I tell others what happened?” I know suicide can happen to anyone, but never once considered it may impact my own family so intimately. It took this tragedy and my healing to realize that, as hard as I worked at normalizing mental illness, I wasn’t working hard enough. I carried my own internalized stigma.

The Out of the Darkness walk brings suicide into the light. It forces everyone to take a look at a very real epidemic that needs to be talked about. We need to raise awareness and to educate, so that we may stop dismissing opportunities to reach out when we see someone struggling. I walk so that the end of my son’s short life is given a purpose. So that my family’s loss may help someone else survive. So that we are able to recognize that suicide does not discriminate.

Laura Knapp, Manager of care management
Providence Health & Services Northwest Washington Team Co-Captain, Everett Out of the Darkness Walk

#WhyIWalk: As a behavioral health clinician, I walk because I believe no one should die alone or die in despair. I have seen firsthand that there is hope even in immense suffering, that there is freedom in bringing suicide to light, and that we still have a lot of work to do to reduce the stigma of mental illness. I walk to give a voice to those who feel unheard and because I believe it is possible to have a world where there is no death by suicide. 






Connie Bartlett, DO, Pediatrician
Providence St. Joseph Health Team Captain, Orange County Out of the Darkness Walk

I am a wife, mother, and a physician. At work, I experience firsthand the impact of mental health in my young patients and their families. I have also noticed the steep rise in teen suicide in recent years. The solution is multifaceted and we are only barely scratching the surface in terms of diagnosis and treatments for these youths. This past June, my daughter’s friend in college died by suicide. It became the call to action for me. His death was a catalyst for me to step up and do my job as a children’s caregiver and advocate. We have to bring suicide into the light and create safe venues for families to come and be educated about resources available for these at risk individuals. It is my hope and dream to make suicide a “NEVER” event. 






Erin Wesen, Communication manager
Providence St. Joseph Health Team Captain, Seattle Out of the Darkness Walk

#WhyIWalk: Looking back on my brother’s suicide in 2010, I can clearly see what I should have done differently. But, like almost everyone else, I had many misconceptions about suicide. This is why I volunteer as a team captain for the Seattle Out of the Darkness Walk: to raise awareness about suicide and how to prevent it. It is my hope that we never again miss the warning signs. I want to see us move beyond the snap judgments and clichés that suicide is a weakness by those with poor character, to a meaningful understanding of the immense pain that is often concealed beneath the surface. Our mental health should not be overlooked.






Brittney Neidhardt-Gruhl, LICSW, Swedish Medical Group
Team Captain, Seattle Out of the Darkness Walk

#WhyIWalk: I’m choosing to participate in Seattle’s Out of the Darkness Walk as a Captain for several reasons. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in the mental health field for over 14 years. I have unfortunately lost clients and patients to suicide. I have also lost friends. I have attended funerals with my younger siblings for friends that they have lost to suicide. Death from suicide has been increasing over the past decade and we need to do more to educate, treat and prevent it as a society. Bringing awareness to the issue and the elimination of stigma surrounding mental health diagnosis and treatment must be a part of this effort and this event does just that. I’m hopeful that with increasing awareness and the elimination of stigma we can help people to feel less alone and more likely to ask for help. I hope that in the future we can have discussions around mental health the way we talk about heart disease or diabetes. Hope is the light we can give to people who are considering suicide and by walking together we demonstrate what that light looks like. I’m very proud to be a part of it.






Kathy Welch, ICU Nurse
Providence St. Joseph Health Team Captain, Santa Monica Out of the Darkness Walk

#WhyIWalk: My son, David Sliff, was 23 when he died by suicide Dec. 31, 2017 after succumbing to severe depression that he bravely fought to overcome. David was an extraordinary young man who was gifted in writing and playing music, anything mathematical and understood people with a depth and sensitivity that most of us never achieve in a lifetime. He was kind, non-judgmental and tried to fit into a world which didn't always welcome the sensitive souls with the same acceptance and kindness he showed others. David attended college and was studying to become a physicist. He wanted to help make the world a better place.

Even as his mother who was acutely aware of his depression and an ICU nurse for 22 years, who has cared many times for patient survivors of suicide and their families, I wasn't able to save him. People say, "You did everything you could have", but I will always wish I had done more. In the months following his death, I became aware of the several times David rallied and didn't go through with taking his life. I will always wonder if he had become involved with an organization like American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, would it have made a difference. It may have helped him if he had become involved earlier in his depression before he started to isolate and withdraw and for that reason I am committed to helping others through this organization that is devoted to research and education in order to save other lives.






Dora Barilla, DrPH, Group Vice President, Community Health Investment
Providence St. Joseph Health Team Captain, Pasadena Out of the Darkness Walk

#WhyIWalk: I walk because the words are hard to find. So often efforts to help aren’t always translated into the right words and aren’t seen by those in pain. As a nation we are in a crisis of pain, despair and disconnection. I am walking with many others on this day to send a message that it is okay to reach out for help, there is hope, and you are loved. While we find the strategies to address the underlying pain and hopelessness, we come together to walk as a symbol of hope and optimism that we will find our way. Collectively as a community we will find ways to stop the pain.


Learn how Providence St. Joseph Health is advancing the future of mental health.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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