Woman towing casket on walk to state house

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- A New Jersey woman pulling a casket is walking about 80 miles from her home to the state capitol to raise awareness of mental health issues, including suicide and addiction.

Greta Schwartz, 48, of Seaville, set out on her three-leg journey on Monday and plans to arrive at the statehouse on Wednesday.

She has a backpack of water and is storing food in the wooden casket that she is pulling behind her with a strap fastened to her waist. The casket has the word "revolution" printed on its lid. The casket also bears the names of about 70 people Schwartz had a personal connection to who have committed suicide. It has two wheels at the narrow end to help Schwartz pull it.

"I can't just sit around," she said. "This is happening. I have over 70 names. That's just people I have a connection with. Not even strangers."

The issue hit home for her because her son knew two students at Ocean City High School who committed suicide in 2015 and 2014.

Schwartz, who owns the Red Sky Cafe in Seaville, put her theatrical experience as a former actor in New York City to work after attending a discussion on mental health from former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, who spoke last November at Stockton University.

Kennedy, the son of former U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, now lives in Brigantine and has been a political advocate for mental health issues.

Schwartz says Kennedy told the audience the only way to make a change is to be loud.

"I'm not a professional in the field. I'm just a mom with experience," Schwartz said. "So my goal in this is to use this election year to really get people to talk about it."

Schwartz walked from Seaville to Hammonton on Monday, and was headed from Hammonton to Mount Holly Tuesday. She'll set out Wednesday for Trenton.

Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The national suicide rate was about 13 per 100,000 people in 2014, the latest year when statistics were available, according to the foundation. New Jersey tracks lower than the national average at about 8 per 100,000, according to the foundation.

The state operates a suicide prevention hotline and website.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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