SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Running is relatively simple; you put one foot in front of the other and don’t stop. Benson Langat and Dr. Roni Radigan each do it exceptionally well; Langat has completed 7 marathons, while Radigan has done around 13.
“Personally, I enjoy running a lot, and I can go out for a 15-minute run, I can feel very tired,” Langat said. “And by the 15 minutes into it, you feel energized.”
As a counselor, Langat works with people struggling with mental health.
“A lot of the time, it’s really getting someone to have the hope again,” he said. “To feel good about themselves, to really think about how can I be the best version of myself with everything going on.”
Similarly, Radigan is a psychiatrist.
“I see patients, going through multiple different crises,” she said.
They’ll each be running in September’s 437 Project. 12 runners will cross the whole state of South Dakota in a relay format: a trek on foot from the border with Wyoming to the border with Iowa. The effort is a fundraiser for the Helpline Center, which connects South Dakotans with mental health resources.
“It’s to bring that awareness,” Langat said. “To say hey, it is okay to ask for help.”
Last year, The 437 Project raised more than $120,000 for the organization.
“We used those funds to support our grief support outreach program for people who have lost loved ones to suicide,” Helpline Center CEO Janet Kittams said. “As we worked with The 437 Project across the state, we heard from family members all over the state that have lost loved ones to suicide.”
Help was on the way.
“So we expanded our grief outreach support, created a new website that specifically has resources, and then we created a booklet that could be handed out to anybody across the state on how to cope with the grief and the loss when somebody dies by suicide,” Kittams said.
Radigan says a straightforward and to-the-point question is the best route if you’re concerned a loved one may be thinking about self-harm.
“Not, ‘Are you having self-harming thoughts,’ but rather, ‘Are you experiencing suicidal thoughts,'” she said. “‘Are you feeling suicidal?’ Being very direct when you ask it.”
Furthermore, that question could very well spark relief.
“Often, there’s this myth that by asking the question, that you’re maybe implanting the thought in their mind,” Radigan said. “But that is a complete myth and not true. Most patients are actually comforted that somebody noticed and asked.”
It’s no small matter to run across an entire Midwestern state. But, Langat says, that’s not what weighs heaviest.
“The running part is easy,” he said. “It’s the emotion that you deal with later. It’s why you’re doing it for, who you’re doing it for.”
When he, Radigan and the other 10 runners cross South Dakota, they won’t be alone.
“I have two uncles that have taken their lives because of it,” Langat said. “So, emotionally you get to the point where it’s like, it weighs heavy on you and so then you’re just thinking about those individuals and other people who could be struggling.”
“So many of my patients tell me, ‘I must be the only one, something’s different about me,'” Radigan said. “But you’re not. There are millions, millions of patients in the United States that are experiencing suicidal thoughts.”
“It tends to be really heavy,” Langat said. “The legs will just keep moving, the brain is going to be working, and so and seeing the beautiful state, can’t go wrong.”
One foot in front of the other.
“Every step is going to mean something,” Langat said.
KELOLAND’s Dan Santella will be following the group as they make their journey across the state; stay tuned for his reporting from the road.