Thanks to everyone who participated in Saturday’s annual “Out of the Darkness” Walk in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Our mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide would not be possible without you. This year, the 383 people taking part in the walk held in Myers Park in Lansing raised more than $34,000.
AFSP started as a research-based organization, when a small group of families affected by suicide banded together with scientists who wanted to understand more. The funds raised in “Out of the Darkness” walks throughout the country help fund innovative and exciting research that will enable us to find better ways to stop suicide. This past year, AFSP invested nearly $5 million dollars in cutting edge scientific research.
The funds also help AFSP develop and share education programs like “Talk Saves Lives,” and “It’s Real,” a film about college students and mental health. These programs give people practical strategies for recognizing the warning signs, and preventing suicide in their communities. AFSP’s Interactive Screening Program gives students, workers, and veterans a safe way to reach out for support. Together, we are creating a culture that’s smart about mental health.
By joining us, walkers help us to provide support to the many people affected by suicide. In the Survivor Outreach Program, for example, those who have lost a loved one to suicide can receive a visit from a trained volunteer who is also a suicide loss survivor. This way, someone who is further along in their healing journey can share their wisdom about what helped them after their loss. Our annual Survivor Day events reach more families affected by suicide each year.
The funds also enable AFSP advocates in Washington to do their work of fighting to pass legislation that will save lives. Many states now have better mental health programs and mandatory suicide prevention training for teachers. This is real and lasting change.
By joining us in Myers Park Saturday, the walkers sent the message that mental health is as real as physical health, and that reaching out for help is the strong thing to do. The walkers showed others that suicide, which is currently the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, can no longer be swept under the rug.
As a community, we know we have much to do, as we lose close to 45,000 lives to suicide every year in our country. While we are saddened by these deaths, we also see them as a call to action for our nation to do more to prevent suicide. Our annual walks help us continue to fight for a day when no one will die by suicide. By walking with us, you honor the memory of the loved ones we’ve lost.
—By Crystal Howser
Crystal Howser is the co-chair of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Greater Ithaca Walk
Photo credits: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention & Friends
[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]