SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — Mental health doesn’t always have the spotlight it merits, but it will this week across South Dakota as 12 runners travel the state on foot from west to east. Lisa Larson of Mitchell is among them and has an intensely personal reason for running in this effort called The 437 Project.
“I attempted to take my own life, so this is a huge thing for me, and that’s something I just recently shared with my family,” Larson said. “They were young at the time, so I have three boys now that are old enough to I felt handle this, but I seriously wasn’t going to share that story until I became a part of this.”
The 12 runners will complete their journey as a relay. Micah Aberson of Sioux Falls is also part of the team; a survivor close to him is his motivation.
“It was just a few years ago that a sort of surrogate father of mine, the best friend of my parents, attempted to take his life,” Aberson said. “And it was a challenging period of time for that family and weighs heavy on my heart.”
The event beginning Thursday morning and concluding on Sunday is a fundraiser for the Helpline Center, which helps South Dakotans access mental health resources. Avera Health is sponsoring the group’s big run.
“The truth is, suicide is a preventable death,” said Thomas Otten, assistant vice president for Avera Behavioral Health Services. “Suicide happens very much as an impulse decision.”
Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken is also among the dozen runners.
“This event was hatched about two years ago now with a group of people in my conference room at City Hall, just saying hey, we should figure out how we can do something around the challenges of mental health,” TenHaken said.
And helping lead the charge is a survivor who’s living proof of real hope.
“This is an opportunity to show that it’s possible, and it’s taken me 13 years, though, to talk about my attempt, so it doesn’t come easy,” Larson said.