FARGO — For Sara Dukart, the suicidal thoughts started in seventh grade.
She had been struggling with self-identity for about two years, in part because she was adopted, in part because her body was changing. Dukart describes her depression as an “elephant constantly sitting on you.” She was suffocating.
One day in eighth grade, “I didn’t necessarily want to die, but I just, I couldn’t take it,” the 27-year-old recently recalled. “I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t know how to deal with the pain.”
She went to bathroom, took a bunch of pills and wondered what would happen next.
Today, Dukart is a registered nurse at Sanford Health in Fargo, a marathon runner and a pageant queen, as the former Mrs. Fargo and recently named Mrs. Montana. A year ago, she went public with the story of her suicide attempt — a step she says was necessary in her recovery and on her mission to end the stigma of mental illness.
“It was just like, ‘Phew, I can breathe,’ ” she said. “A weight was just lifted, because I was always carrying that around.”
Dukart is hosting an educational social called “You Matter” tonight at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead to encourage open conversations about depression and to talk about how physical fitness can help.
“I know that I need structure. I know that I need to exercise and eat healthy and take care of myself and get sleep,” she said. “The likelihoods of me getting depression again are very high. Reoccurrence for individuals with severe depression is up to five times in your life.”
“It’s not necessarily helping someone look a certain way, but it’s helping them feel comfortable in their own skin,” said Justin Mickels, owner of Evolution Fitness in Fargo, which is co-hosting the event. “From my personal experience, eating healthy helps me feel so much better, not just physically, but internally, mentally.”