September 7, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.
As mental health problems become more serious nationwide, the Twedt family, of Sauk Centre, is holding a walk Saturday, Sept. 16, on the Lake Wobegon Trail, sponsored by The Scars Foundation, to bring attention to these issues. With this walk, Shannon Twedt wants people to realize it is OK to not be OK.
“It’s OK to talk if you have issues,” Shannon said. “If you feel like life’s not worth it, it’s OK to reach out and talk to somebody about it. It doesn’t need to be a stigma anymore.”
Shannon’s oldest child, Ace, 14, agrees.
“The goal is to get people to know they’re not alone,” Ace said. “They can find the help they need to thrive.”
Walk participants are encouraged to meet at the Stearns County Fairgrounds, 1105 Ash St. S., in Sauk Centre – the area near the Lake Wobegon Trail – between 8-8:45 a.m. From there, Shannon hopes to secure a bus or volunteers to transport walkers to Coborn’s in Melrose, so the walk can start there and proceed down the Lake Wobegon Trail. That way, people will end the walk where their vehicles are parked.
Around the halfway point, where the Lake Wobegon Trail crosses 365th Avenue, Shannon’s wife Stephanie will set up with water to keep the walkers hydrated.
“I don’t have a time frame of when we’re going to end,” Shannon said. “I’d like to start the walk between 9-9:15 (a.m.) … It’s not about setting a time record; it’s about getting the word out and getting mental health and suicide prevention noticed. If it takes us six hours to walk it, it takes us six hours to walk it.”
The Scars Foundation was set up by Sully Erna with the rock band Godsmack, who lost one of his close friends to suicide. He started the foundation to raise awareness of growing mental health issues such as bullying, abuse, addiction and suicide, while also providing resources, education and empowerment for those who struggle with these burdens.
Shannon is a fan of Godsmack, and he, Stephanie and Ace have all dealt with mental health issues. One of Stephanie’s cousins died by suicide in April, the same month one of Ace’s younger siblings was hospitalized for a breakdown.
“We were sitting in the ER for three days, and they sent us home because they didn’t have anything they could do to help him at that time,” Shannon said. “That pushed me to realize our mental health system is pretty broken, and it doesn’t get talked about as much as it should. It doesn’t get the acknowledgement it deserves.”
In 2022, the suicide rate in Minnesota was 14.3 per 100,000 people. Shannon has known other people who have taken their lives, and Ace once had to talk a friend of his out of the act.
“Suicide and mental health are really personal to our family,” Shannon said. “It’s such a wide range of things; it’s not just depression and anxiety, like some people think.”
At first, Shannon planned on the walk just being a personal endeavor, but when he mentioned it to work friends at Standard Iron in Sauk Centre, they suggested he talk to the company’s human resources department, who recommended it be made a sponsored event. So, Shannon got the sponsorship of The Scars Foundation.
Shannon is interested in establishing a local suicide prevention network. He knows there are organizations in St. Cloud with this focus, but they usually do not reach as far as Sauk Centre, and not many know their contact information – which Shannon and Ace attribute to the stigma around reaching out for help for this condition.
“It’s so shut out because people think it’s wrong for you to feel the way you feel,” Ace said.
Shannon knows of about 15 people who are going to be on the walk so far, and he is open to more people coming to walk, help with transportation or donate snacks and water. They also have donation jars set up at Brother’s Market and the Smoke Shop, both on Main Street in Sauk Centre.
With enough community support, Shannon hopes to make the walk an annual event.
“I don’t want it to be just a one-time shot,” Shannon said. “I already have my date picked out for next year: September 14.”
Ultimately, the Twedts want anyone suffering from mental health issues to know they do not have to be alone, no matter who they are.
“(Emotional scars) are what we want people to be able to embrace and share,” Shannon said. “That’s the story of what we’ve been through.”