Sunday marks the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week. After the death of their loved one, a local family has put together a festival to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Eight years ago, the Ryan and Brady Randall lost their older brother to suicide.
“North Dakotans especially, I think you know, are kind of stoic people, you know, and so a lot of us -I think-, we held it in, internally, and so we want to kind of express our love for him,” says Ryan Randall, Co-founder of OpenMIND.
They began LeeWok as an arts and music festival to honor him.
“It’s a very strong community place, there’s a really positive energy here and you can feel it permeating in the air. Nobody’s unhappy here, when you’re at a music festival — festivals are fun. And these guys really channel that energy into something fantastic,” says Jonah Lantto, LeeWok Festival Attendee.
According to the CDC, suicide is the 8th leading cause of death in North Dakota.
The brothers felt that while there were national programs dedicated to helping people with mental health, they wanted to start something in their community to help locally.
“Almost everybody has been touched by some sort of mental illness in some way or another,” says Randall.
So they started OpenMIND, a non-profit dedicated to changing the stigma surrounding mental health.
“If you had cancer, you wouldn’t hold that away from telling someone, right? You would just come right out and be like, ‘Guys, you know, I’m struggling with this. I need your help. And for whatever reason with mental health, people see it as a weakness and it shouldn’t be that way,” says Randall.
Among the art and music, the brothers have set up the Mindfulness tent to give the festival-goers techniques like meditation and yoga to deal with poor mental health days.
Heidi Demars, Founder of Mindful You-Mindful Me, says, “If things aren’t right here,” she pauses to touch her heart, “it’s really hard to learn up here,” she gestures to her head. “So, we really lay a solid foundation of stillness so we know when things get a little hectic that we can take time to kind of search within ourselves and find that stillness.”
The brothers hoped to show those struggling with their mental health that they aren’t alone by bringing people together in honor of Lee.
The proceeds from this year’s LeeWok festival will go towards the Growing Up Mindful workshop presented by Mindful You-Mindful Me.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies, please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255