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Resident Pamela Kluft In Walk To Support Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Prevention Center

Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services President/CEO Dr. Kita Curry with Tom Kenny, best known as the voice of "Spongebob Squarepants," who emceed the Alive and Running Kiddie K.

Posted: Saturday, September 27, 2014 – 12:45 PM

Among the many participants in Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services’ 16th annual Alive & Running 5K Walk/Run event Sunday, will be resident Pamela Kluft.

She’s walking in memory of her sister Beth who died in March of 2012 at 51.

More than 2,000 runners, walkers, spectators and volunteers from all over Southern California will take part in the walk/run which raises awareness and funding for the nonprofit’s nationally recognized Suicide Prevention Center, which operates a 24-hour English/Spanish Crisis Line, as well as Crisis Chat and Text services.

Kluft is a fan of the organization. She turned to Didi Hirsch when she began the grieving process immediately after her sister’s funeral. A friend who had lost a son to suicide at 18 and was a founding member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), told her to start therapy and not even consider a group that doesn’t specialize in bereavement of suicide.

“It’s a unique way to loose someone,” says Kluft. “It’s not like heart disease. It comes out of nowhere; and you’re left with trauma and shock.”

An eight-week group session at  Didi Hirsch allowed Kluft to “share the loss and discuss the life,” she says. “Every suicide is a story.”

That was almost exactly two years ago; “and it was an amazing experience of sharing my story and hearing about other loved ones,” says Kluft.

“Suicide hits every walk of life across the board; and people need services to grieve,” says  Kluft. “Thank goodness for Didi Hirsch. There is nothing like it.”

Didi Hirsch crisis counselors answered more than 55,000 calls, chats and texts last year. “I hope that if someone is contemplating taking their life, they hear about a place called Didi Hirsch and realize that someone will listen and care; and say ‘I will make that call,’” Kluft says.

The organization is also dedicated to erasing the stigma associated with suicide.

“It’s still a dirty word,” says Kluft. At a dinner, she sat across from woman who told people her relative died in a car accident yet Kluft knew the truth. “In my case, I was bold and upfront and told people my sister committed suicide. I think it tarnishes the person’s memory to be dishonest. And I have to think about the person who lived for 51 years.

She found friends didn’t know what to say, or said nothing. “I didn’t take it personally. They had a preconceived idea that I had a crazy sister.  My sister was beautiful and smart; she had qualities she didn’t see. These are not crazy people doing ridiculous things. The day the person died is only one of the puzzle pieces.”

In the U.S., someone takes their life every 15 minutes resulting in more than five million people in the nation who have lost a loved one to suicide. And each death directly effects 12 people, the center reports. More than 38,000 Americans died and 1 million attempted suicide last year.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents. One out of six high school students seriously considers suicide and for every adolescent who takes his or her life, as many as 200 attempt suicide.

The organization has become Kluft’s “chosen charity,” the one she contributes to on her birthday and urges others to support. “I didn’t know it existed,” reports Kluft. “And some think it costs and they can’t afford it. I remember the sessions were $20 and the fee wasn’t mandatory. And everyone was so caring about the person’s loss and how a survivor will go forward.”

Her goal now is to become even more involved as a bereavement group co-facilitator once she gets “further out” from her own experience. “So many people are just lost with nowhere to go to share their story. I want to listen and contribute and help people heal,” says Kluft.  “Grieving is an important part of the process and no one is taught how to grieve.”

Sunday activities begin at 6:30 a.m., with the walk/run at 8 a.m. starting just north of LAX at West 88th St. and La Tijera Boulevard in Westchester.

For her first Alive  Running event (she took part in a AFSP event), Kluft is sponsoring herself, wearing a stick in honor of her sister and walking with her children, BHHS grads Michelle and Julie, and son Alex, who attended El Rodeo. “If I can help one person thinking about taking their life know they have a place to go; then I will be gratified,” Kluft said.

Registration the day of the event is $35.

A free “Kiddie-K” (1K) will also be held following the 5K.

For more information, visit ww.aliveandrunning.org or email AliveandRunning@DidiHirsch.org.

—Steve Simmons

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