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Published July 06, 2012, 09:10 AM

Rothsay mother "Shattering the Silence" to raise awareness of teen suicide

Rothsay, MN (WDAY TV) - When the small town of Rothsay, Minnesota celebrates Prairie Days this weekend, people will also be gathering to Shatter the Silence. It is the 3rd Annual 5K Walk that raises awareness of suicide and mental health issues. It started after a high school senior in Rothsay took his life three years ago.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Rothsay, MN (WDAY TV) - When the small town of Rothsay, Minnesota celebrates Prairie Days this weekend, people will also be gathering to Shatter the Silence. It is the 3rd Annual 5K Walk that raises awareness of suicide and mental health issues. It started after a high school senior in Rothsay took his life three years ago.

Maria Willits – Mother of Ricky: “Ricky was a very humble young man. At the same time he was outgoing. He was witty, he was the life of the party kind of kid.”

That is why it is so confusing and heartbreaking about the story of Maria's 18 year-old son, Ricky. Rothsay honor student, standout baseball player from Barnesville, Homecoming Court.

Maria Willits: “Everybody in school loved him, teachers and students.”

But what so many people did not see was the depression and anxiety Ricky was fighting with daily, alone. The same day he agreed to get help is the same day life became too dark and hard, and he took his own life. He was a month away from high school graduation.

Maria Willits: “The depression, he really hid that well. There were so many people caught off guard.”

Maria has taken her family's tragedy and turned it into an education opportunity, sharing her story with schools and youth groups, sponsoring events that raised money for scholarships so schools focus on the issue, and starting an area support group.

Maria Willits: “One of the major reasons is to make sure that his death wasn’t in vain. The emotional pain that people go through when they are at that point – I just can’t even imagine it because I’ve never been there. It must be so, so, so terrible and such a dark place that I want to reach out to others. I want to prevent this from happening to others; other families, other parents. It’s so devastating.

It has been hard in the rural, small town areas in West Central Minnesota to find support and help for teenagers battling mental health issues or their families trying to move on from a tragic suicide of a young loved one. Maria is hoping to change that.

Maria Willits: “As a parent you don't want to think that your child is about to take his life or would even think about it ever, but if you suspect it, you have to ask the question.”

The walk starts at 8 AM this Saturday at the American Legion Park in Rothsay on the east side of town. Money raised goes to scholarships to promote suicide prevention education. For more click on the Easy Link tab.

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