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Stairways Case Manager to Participate in National Suicide Walk in Memory of Brother

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Rashell Ulrich knew she had to find a way to remember him.

Her brother had meant too much to her to let something as conclusive as suicide have the final word on him.

Dealing with the grief would be a challenge in itself, but appropriately honoring her brother would become her mission.

***

On a late August afternoon in 2010, Jamie Wilt and his girlfriend, Magen Porter, were on their way to catch the sunset aboard his motorcycle when a drunk driver blindsided the couple at an intersection.

Porter, the passenger, died at the scene. Wilt was in critical condition but would pull through.

Though he sustained injuries including a punctured lung and broken bones, it was Porter’s death that rendered Wilt a broken man. During the months that followed the crash, it was clear life was difficult for Wilt, a person his family had always leaned on during trying times.

“My brother was always the strongest person that I’ve ever known—he was not scared of anything,” Rashell said. “After that accident, he couldn’t sleep at night, he was depressed, he definitely had post-traumatic stress.”

Without treatment, Wilt never recovered from the psychological wounds he incurred that late summer day and died by suicide the following March.

For Rashell, she didn’t just lose her younger brother, but one of her best friends and the man who walked her down the aisle at her wedding.

“My brother’s death impacted me in ways that are unimaginable,” she said. “I’m a different person, but I knew I had to do something.

“If I didn’t have something to keep his memory alive, I don’t know how I would survive this whole thing.”

On June 27, Rashell will have a chance to honor her brother’s memory on a national stage when she walks more than 16 miles overnight at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walk in Boston. Having raised the $1,000 that is required to participate, she will be joined by thousands of other walkers whose lives have been in some way affected by suicide.

“It’s very weird, but the second my brother died, I knew I needed help,” she said. “And I just found them.”

For Rashell, that “them” was the AFSP, a non-profit organization dedicated to the fight against suicide through research, education and advocacy.

Since Wilt’s death, Rashell has become increasingly involved with AFSP. She has attended the organization’s national conferences and has helped organize Erie’s community Out of the Darkness Walk, AFSP’s annual walk against suicide held in cities across the United States.

This year, the local walk will take place Sept. 27 at Presque Isle State Park.

By taking part in the national walk, Rashell hopes that others in similar situations to her brother may be inspired to seek help when struggling.

“Guys like my brother — who are these big strong guys who take care of everybody— and then he gets sick and won’t get help for it,” Rashell said. “I want guys like him to feel safe getting help.”

To that end, Rashell will decorate a luminary adorned with Wilt’s photo and a candle that will join thousands of others lining the walk route—each representing a life touched by suicide.

“It’s very special to me that my brother will be lit up and represented there,” Rashell said. “My whole point in doing this was to have him represented.”

To contribute to Rashell walking in honor of her brother, click http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=753305. Rashell will also be selling for $5 apiece Country Fair coupon books valued at $25. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will go to AFSP Erie.

For more information about the Out of Darkness walk, visit https://www.afsp.org/out-of-the-darkness-walks.


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