The race begins at the 2013 Warrior Run.
Nancy Eigel-Miller didn’t see it coming. No one did, really. Her husband, Jim, was a larger-than-life personality with a booming laugh and a soft spot for corny jokes. He was deeply devoted to his family and committed to his community − coaching track, soccer and swim teams for teens. So when he left work early one day in 2008, drove two hours to Chillicothe and died by suicide, it shook Nancy and their daughters to the core.
“The thing is, you have to talk about it,” says Nancy. “No one wants to talk about suicide or depression, but if you don’t talk about it, you can’t remove the stigma or teach people what signs to look for. Not talking about it means people don’t realize there is help − that things can get better.”
True to this belief, Nancy talks openly and honestly about her husband’s suicide. Looking back, she can now see little signs that her husband was suffering. At the time, though, she didn’t know that his weight loss and trouble sleeping were warning signs of depression, or where they could lead.
Not long after Jim’s death, his friends organized the Jim Miller Memorial Mile walk in his memory. The event soon expanded into the Warrior Run: The Race for Life − an annual 5K run, 1-mile walk and family festival.
Nancy and her family started the Warrior Run because they not only wanted a way to honor Jim’s memory, but they wanted to start people talking about depression and suicide. Proceeds from the run benefit Cincinnati Children’s Surviving the Teens program − a suicide prevention program.
Developed by Cathy Strunk, MSN, RN, Surviving the Teens has three components: student training, a parent program and a gatekeeper program for school staff and community members. Each component helps teens, parents and educators recognize the stressors, warning signs, symptoms and at-risk behaviors that signal depression or suicide risk in teens. In short, the program works to help adults and teens predict potential suicides and stop them before they happen.
It’s a mission that is close to Nancy’s heart. “People often ask why we chose Surviving the Teens, when Jim was an adult.” She pauses. “Jim devoted his life to kids, personally and professionally. It’s only fitting that a run in his memory would help kids understand, predict and avoid the very thing that took his life.”
After five years, the run has raised nearly $100,000 for Surviving the Teens.
And Cincinnati Children’s plans to expand the program’s reach even further through a train-the-trainer initiative that will help school staff educate others, reaching even more teens.
Last year, the Warrior Run drew 1,200 participants from all over the city. People come for the run and to enjoy the family-focused activities surrounding the event, but many are there because they, too, have been affected by suicide. They’re looking to connect and talk about their experiences, to tell their stories in the hopes that it will stop other families from going through the same loss.
To Nancy, it’s the most fitting tribute she can think of for her husband.