Suicide survivors help save lives

John Southern, 44, had no way of knowing it at the time, but he saved lives when he shot himself in the head eight years ago.

After mourning her brother’s death, Federal Way resident Catherine North sprang into action in an effort to prevent future victims of suicide.

“By me talking about it, it kind of opens other people up to talking about it,” North said.

North participates in a local Survivors of Suicide support group, and supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

This summer, North is organizing a local team that will participate in the National Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in Seattle. The event will raise money for suicide prevention research, education programs and initiatives to help survivors of suicide loss. Organizers aim to raise $2 million this year.

Education is important to possibly prevent people from going through what Southern went through, North said. Suicide is preventable.

If people who were at risk talked about suicide, they could get help, she said. But few people discuss the issue because of the stigma surrounding it.

“People are too embarrassed to talk about it,” North said.

“There’s this misconception that you can just stop it and pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” she said. “People can often no more stop that than they can their diabetes.”

The Overnight Walk takes place throughout the night and into the wee hours of the morning to symbolically bring the issue of suicide out into the open.

“Aside from just raising the money, it helps raise awareness,” North said.

Families who are aware can help loved ones who are struggling with depression and may be considering suicide, North said. She recalls that there were warning signs before her brother killed himself, but her family didn’t recognize them until it was too late.

Southern had exhibited signs of depression and cocaine addiction.

“It was the divorces. It was money. It was drugs,” North said. “All of that could have been helped... Depression does not have to be life-ending.”

Often times, people who are considering suicide will talk about and be preoccupied with death before they kill themselves. A person who is worried about any family members should talk to them, North said.

“If I was afraid that they might be, I would ask them ‘Are you thinking about ending your life?’” she said. “I think people are afraid to ask... You mentioning it is not going to suddenly make them want to take their life.”

Depression should not be ignored, North said.

“We need to tend to our emotional health just as much as we do our physical health,” she said.

Contact Margo Horner: or (253) 925-5565.

For more information or to participate in the Overnight walk, call Catherine North, (253) 941-0826 or visit

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