CPSY alumna Kristy Makowichuk delivers keynote address at first-in-the-nation suicide prevention walk inside correctional facility
An Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk was recently held inside the Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem. It’s thought to be the first time in the country such a walk was held inside a correctional facility.
“The response I received from inmates shaking my hand and thanking me for sharing my story, and then sharing their stories in return, was such a moment of acceptance and uplifting empowerment. No more shame.” - Kristy Makowichuk
CPSY alumna Kristy Makowichuk, MA ’15, delivered the keynote address at the powerful event and, like most of the participants, she had a very personal reason to be there.
“As a child survivor of parental suicide, I struggled for years with shame and kept secret the fact that my father died by suicide while incarcerated. The trauma of his death had a lasting impact on my family’s well-being in many ways,” she shared candidly.
Although open about the devastating experience today, Makowichuk admits that it took tremendous work—participating in her own therapeutic process, attending suicidology conferences, volunteering at a
children’s bereavement center, and reading copious amount of literature related to suicide—before she was finally able to tell her story out loud.
“I spoke out loud about [my experience] for the first time in my Diversity class with Dr. Pittman and my cohort of 12 [while a student at the Graduate School]! It was the hardest moment but I had the most supportive colleagues and it felt empowering.”
Now as a mental health professional herself, Makowichuk continues to feel empowered by sharing her story, and by the impact that it can have on others.
“I had no idea how things would unfold when I asked the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention how I could be involved and found out that my story aligned perfectly with the upcoming Santiam walk. But the response I received from inmates shaking my hand and thanking me for sharing my story, and then sharing their stories in return, was such a moment of acceptance and uplifting empowerment. No more shame.”
As part of a work study program, inmates who participated in the walk also filmed, edited, and produced a video chronicling the day’s events.
Makowichuk is currently organizing the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) upcoming Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Portland, taking place Saturday, October 07, 2017.
Each year over 44,000 Americans die by suicide.