NDA Junior Tells Her Story, Inspires 1600 at ‘Be the Light’ Event

NDA Junior Tells Her Story, Inspires 1600 at Be the Light Event

Gioia Cumicek, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

NDA junior Charlotte Van Den Heuvel shared her story at the recent “Be the Light” community-wide event, an event that raises awareness about suicide prevention. 

Especially among high school students, suicide is ranked as the second leading cause of death. Unlike other major threats such as smoking, infectious disease, and cancer, whose death rates have decreased, suicide rates have dramatically increased. 

“I have gone to the walk for years, but this was my first time speaking at it,” said Van Den Heuvel.

After her mom found out about the event online, she began attending the gathering and walk  each year.

For this year’s walk, Van Den Heuvel was selected to speak and share her story. Her speech was about the many different issues she had struggled with and how she eventually got help and overcame them. 

The response to her speech was a standing ovation. 

“I had many people come up to me thanking me and saying I did great,” said Van Den Heuvel, “but one lady’s comment really stuck with me. She started crying, explaining how her son attempted suicide, and then followed that by telling me my speech gave him hope for the future.”

Originally, Van Den Heuvel sent in her story and asked if she was able to help with anything for the walk. After reading her story, event organizers asked if she would be willing to share her story with those attending the walk. 

She presented her speech in front of the committee along with other possible speakers, and a few weeks later they emailed her asking her to speak at the walk. 

Van Den Heuvel said, “It was a healing promise to share my story,” and “I wanted people to know they can get through tough times even when it seems impossible.”

Two others also addressed the crowd of 1600. One speaker explained why the walk is held and what work it supports while the next speaker explained ways to prevent suicide. These are other volunteers who have been helping assist with the annual walk.

Following the talks, participants walked a mile around downtown Green Bay. Then balloons were released in memory of all the people who have died as a result of suicide and in honor of those who are struggling. 

Many who attend the annual event struggle with sexual harassment, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and intentions. Others who attend have lost a loved one due to suicide and go for closure.  

Throughout this walk and many others worldwide, closure and help is spread to those seeking it. 

“To anyone who is depressed or contemplating ending their life, I would tell them that it does get better, and it might not be right away,” said Van Den Heuvel.  “I would also tell them to research different ways that they can improve their mental health because many people think you can only do therapy, but you can try things like reiki, acupuncture, equine therapy, EMDR, and much more.”