Suicide Prevention: Local woman to take part in Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk

PHOTO PROVIDED Jess Dreese at last year’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in Philadelphia.

LOCK HAVEN — A Lock Haven woman will head to Boston this weekend to take part in a national walk for suicide prevention.

Jess Dreese, 33, is thrilled to be going — but she knows what it’s like to be at rock bottom.

In 2008, Dreese began to struggle with anxiety and depression.

Things went downhill quickly.

“I was working a job that I liked and everything was normal and I kind of started feeling depressed and anxious out of nowhere, so my doctor and I started to try medications and therapy, but nothing worked and things got worse,” she said.

On the Fourth of July that year, Dreese tried to take her own life.

“I just felt hopeless,” Dreese said.

She was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

However, the diagnosis didn’t help things.

“I was still struggling really bad. I was in and out of hospitals, we tried every medication,” Dreese explained.

Then, in 2014, she finally broke through and things started turning around.

Now, she is trying to make a difference.

Last year, she went to Philadelphia to take part Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk. This year’s walk is in Boston. She will board an airplane for the first time ever this weekend and head to Boston to take part in the walk, which begins at 9 p.m. and goes all night long.

“They do an annual overnight walk on the West Coast and the East Coast. Last year, it was in Philadelphia and I thought, ‘I can do that.’ I got on a bus, went there, did the walk and then came home,” Dreese said.

Dreese is a student at Harrisburg Area Community College. As a student, she had to raise a minimum of $700 to take part in the walk. To raise the money, Dreese began selling T-shirts.

After taking part in the walk last year, Dreese knew she had to go back this year. She’s leaving Saturday morning, flying from Pittsburgh to Boston. There will be an opening ceremony at Boston University prior to the all-night walk.

“It’s thousands of people. You walk all through the city, you see all the different landmarks. There are different stops to make sure you’re hydrated, things like that. The walk usually ends around 6 a.m.,” Dreese said.

While it’s a no-pressure 16-mile walk, Dreese said that the challenge is staying up all night.

“Last year I didn’t do much and I still made it 12 miles. I didn’t get the whole thing done but without training, I thought it was pretty good,” she said.

More than the walk itself, Dreese simply loves being part of an effort to raise awareness.

“I just feel that it’s something I can contribute every year. Everyone can do a little something and I don’t think there’s enough awareness or funds for mental health. Hopefully, I can bring some light to it in the community because every community needs more awareness,” Dreese said. “I’m very excited. I’m really looking forward to it.”

To donate, visit www.theovernight.org and search Jess Dreese.