By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s an uncomfortable topic that’s tough to talk about.

But, suicide is a subject some Minnesota moms believe people must raise before it’s too late.

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The Minnesota Department of Health says 48 teenagers died by suicide in 2020 in the state after a year that saw more than 700 deaths total.

“He just really struggled after losing his two good friends,” Janet Casperson said.

An avid fisherman and polite young man, Sam Casperson would never recover from the suicides of his friends in the fall of 2019.

“On January 2, 2020, my 16-year-old son died to suicide. Unfortunately, six weeks later his girlfriend Ashland died to suicide,” Casperson said.

Sam and Ashland’s mothers say their tragic losses are among more than a dozen teenagers in the north metro in more than a year to do the same.

“We kind of hit a breaking point where we need to do something. We need to figure out something to help with our community,” Casperson said.

Janet Casperson and Shannon Lee have focused on finding solutions at schools where they think kids need more mental health help and where they believe living healthy digital lives should be part of kids’ curriculum.

“We have to find a way to live in this space better,” Shannon Lee said. “We know it’s needed, desperately needed.”

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Katie Shatusky launched Thumbs Up in Elk River after losing her grandfather to suicide 11 years ago.

“It’s definitely a club no one else wants to be in,” Shatusky said.

Next Saturday, their annual family-friendly walk/run/bike/blade fundraiser will focus on awareness and prevention. This year, with a record number of participants.

“Our mission is to really help those struggling with a mental health disorder, to really find resources,” Shatusky said.

Resources to remind people they’re not alone, and two mothers asking those struggling not to make a permanent decision based on a temporary feeling.

“Life is hard, it’s always going to be hard, we just have to figure out how to keep moving forward,” Lee said.

More information about how to register for next Saturday’s event is here.

For anyone who may be struggling right now, please know help is available.

You can call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Text 741-741 or call 1-800-273-8255.

Liz Collin