Mike Hackman, a Marshfield resident, committed suicide in 2010 after a long battle with mental illness. Unfortunately, Mike's story is not unique.
On average, about 100 people per day die by suicide in the United States, resulting in a loss of over 30,000 lives annually.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of all deaths, the second leading cause of death among 25 to 34 year olds and the third leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year olds. Suicide is often related to serious depression, alcohol/substance abuse or a major stressful event.
Mike's friend, Al Nystrom, parent Jack and Joanne Hackman, his siblings and other family members and friends were called to action despite their grief. Their mission is to help others suffering from mental illness, as well as to educate the public about mental health issues. In 2011 on the one-year anniversary of Mike's passing, the first Mike's Run was held to remember and honor Mike, as well as to raise funds and awareness of mental illness.
The Hackman family and the Mike's Run Committee have partnered with Marshfield Clinic to build awareness of mental illness through conferences, patient education materials and community health care programs.
This spring, the first community presentation was held with the focus on awareness of youth suicidal behavior. In addition, the Marshfield Clinic Division of Education held a two-day conference for professionals on the same topic. One of the experts who presented at both the community presentation and the professional conference was James Mazza, Ph.D., a Marshfield native and professor and director of the school psychology program at the University of Washington in Seattle.
According to Mazza, "For too long our educational focus for youth has been strictly limited to academics, yet we have smart youth who are making poor decisions under emotionally stressful circumstances that have long-term consequences."
"We have learned that helping youth develop good coping strategies and decision-making abilities provides them with lifelong skills to reduce the impact of mental health problems and increases the likelihood for success in their professional and personal lives," he explained.
These sentiments are shared by Stephanie Kohlbeck, Ph.D., a Marshfield Clinic psychologist.
"Mental health can be a difficult subject to talk about," she explained."It's easier for people to talk about how they are feeling physically - 'I have a headache, I had the flu last week…' - than how they are feeling emotionally."
"The funds from Mike's Run are an invaluable resource to help provide education to our community regarding mental health topics," Kohlbeck said. "Having others talk about these sometimes difficult topics can make it easier for others to broach the subject, either for themselves or a family member or friend."
She further noted that lectures and seminars also provide an opportunity to increase awareness of the scope and impact of mental health issues on the community and the resources available to those who need them.