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Life Is Worth Living: Walking to Prevent Suicide During Native Heritage Month

Rayna Madero is trying to stop suicide in its tracks. She will hit the pavement every day in November to raise awareness and generate funds.
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Rayna Madero is trying to stop suicide in its tracks.

Madero, 34, will lace up her walking shoes and hit the Las Vegas pavement every day in November to raise awareness of suicide and generate funds to help prevent it. Madero, Quechan, is founder and executive director of Native Cry Outreach Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Native individuals and communities prevent suicide and cope with loss.

A survivor of her own suicide attempt, Madero has pledged to walk one mile every day in November, and she’s asking for people to join her.

“This is something everyone can do nationwide, wherever they are,” she said. “Anyone can go out and walk.”

The walk coincides with national suicide prevention month and Native American Heritage Month.

Madero has also started a crowdfunding campaign on Teespring. If she sells 100 T-shirts by October 27, Native Cry will keep the profits, which Madero hopes to use to generate support and prevention programs in Native communities across the country.

Designed to raise awareness of suicide, the T-shirts also include this message: “Life is worth living.” That’s something Madero learned for herself after attempting suicide in 2004.

Madero was 16 when she got involved with a man who was mentally and physically violent. By age 23, married and with three children, she decided suicide was the only way out.

“That time of my life was so dark I felt like I was paint on the wall and people were walking by and didn’t see me,” she said. “When my daughter was 6 months old, I looked at myself in the mirror at work and took 40 tablets of codeine. I kept looking in the mirror, trying to see something.”

Madero ended up driving herself to the hospital to get her stomach pumped. She survived and left her marriage, but she said the real tragedy was the fact that she didn’t have words or a support system in place.

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“Before I swallowed the pills, I tried calling people to talk to,” she said. “I was hoping they would hear something in my voice and know I needed help.”

Six years after her own suicide attempt, Madero lost a niece and her best friend to suicide. She started Native Cry to address the unspoken pain, and she’s walking a mile every day in November for her friends.

“If I can help other people find help and hope, that makes me happy,” she said. “I’m walking for the ones who have passed and for those who are alive and with us today.”

Georgette Palmer Smith, vice president of Native Cry’s board of directors, is walking for all who battle depression or consider suicide as a solution. Smith, who is Kiowa and Choctaw, plans to walk the beach in southeast Florida to raise awareness of incidents that often aren’t talked about.

“We as Indian people, when our relatives walk on, we don’t talk about it,” she said. “This is a crisis, especially with the young people.”

Native Cry is not a suicide hotline. It relies on grants and donations to offer training, support and community programs, Smith said.

“We need people who care about where our future is going,” she said. “We need to talk to families and kids and give them hope, and we need to go in and do it in the Indian way.”

Madero is tapping into social media to create a virtual community of caring. She’s asking all who accept the walking challenge to post selfies or videos online.

“With this challenge, I want to make sure everyone knows they have someone to listen,” she said. “We need people to listen. We need many voices to fight for this.”

Deanna Bearheels, a former police officer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, has already shared a video. Bearheels lost a brother and a daughter to suicide and said she is walking in November for them and to reach out to others who may be struggling.

“We’re all human, we all need help some time in our lives,” she said. “It’s OK to ask for help. You’re not alone.”