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Hundreds will gather in Portland to comfort, raise awareness, fight suicide

Every 39 hours someone in Maine dies by suicide. Portland's Out of the Darkness Walk will be held at Fort Allen Park Saturday, September 7, 2019.

PORTLAND, Maine — Cathy Streifel and Margie Johnston's lives crossed, when something painful brought them together.

Streifel lost her brother Jason to suicide in 2015.

"He was a great fan of live music. He was a lifelong skier. We shared that passion. We had our daughters a week apart so there cousins a week apart now."

Streifel says she and her parents were blindsided by the suicide. 

"He seemed to love life, he was just having an internal struggle he couldn't talk about, wouldn't talk about."

Six years ago, Johnston's 23-year-old daughter Ashley completed suicide.

"She was a spark, she was a rock for all of her friends. She took on the problems of the world and everyone else but internalized all her problems."

Johnston says Ashley had been struggling in the months leading up to her death, but she and her husband never thought their daughter would take her own life. 

"Never in a million years did we think of all of our kids, it would be her to take her life."

Maine's suicide rate is higher than the national average.

It is the second leading cause of death among Mainers ages 15-34. 

Streifel says, "a suicide loss will derail your life."

Margie and Cathy co-chair the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's annual Out of Darkness Walk in Portland. One of four walks held throughout the state. 

RELATED: September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month

Money raised helps fund educational and outreach programs in Maine.

Streifel says, "these walks not only raise awareness, hopefully they'll remove the stigma so people will talk about it."

Johnston agrees and applauds the younger generation for being more open to talking about suicide. 

"Young and old we need to get the conversation out there so we can prevent it" Johnston says who feels her daughter cheering her on.

"I still feel Ashley with me. I feel her pushing me."

Streifel and Johnston are on a mission to talk about suicide and impact the lives of Mainers.

Portland's Out of the Darkness Walk will be held at Fort Allen Park Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. The walk starts at 11 a.m.

People can register online ahead of time at AFSP.org/PortlandME

You can register online up until noon on Sept. 6, and then they can register the day of the walk as well.

There is also a walk in Fort Kent on Sept. 7, in Bath on Sept. 15 and Bangor on Sept. 22. 

For anyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts please call the Maine Crisis Hotline at 1-888-568-1112