Walk shines light on suicide prevention

Participants in the inaugural Out of the Darkness Walk held Saturday at the Montrose High School head onto a path in the woods, in memory of loved ones and as a for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The Out of the Darkness walks raise awareness for depression and suicide as well as providing support to survivors. For more about the Out of the Darkness Walk. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

Participants in the inaugural Out of the Darkness Walk held Saturday at the Montrose High School head onto a path in the woods, in memory of loved ones and as a for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The Out of the Darkness walks raise awareness for depression and suicide as well as providing support to survivors. For more about the Out of the Darkness Walk. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

BY STACI WILSON

“We have a big job to do to save these kids,” Pat Gainey, Regional Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told the people assembled at the inaugural Susquehanna County Out of the Darkness Walk.

Gainey joined with over 200 others gathered at the Montrose Area High School. Walk participants, many of who were suicide survivors, journeyed on a three and one-half mile trek in memory of their friends and loved ones.
Gainey said, “We get our kids shots and make sure they eat right, but that’s not what’s killing our kids. They are killing themselves or each other.” She told the group that accidents, suicide and homicide are among the leading causes of death for teens.

Prior to the walk, Gainey led a group response poem entitled, “We remember them.”

“Let us proudly proclaim and not forget our loved one and that their death did matter,” she said.

Colleen Haberle, an organizer of the event, said she was overwhelmed by the large turnout. She said there were 38,000 suicides in the United States in 2010. “Most of those people had diagnosable, treatable mental disorders at the time of their death,” she said.

Denise Carey, of the Wilkes-Barre VA said she attends as many AFSP events as possible. “I want to bring attention that veterans are at a high risk of suicide,” she said. “They too have depression and PTSD. They are much more at risk than the general population.”

Haberle said events like the Out of the Darkness Walk work to help break the stigma the surrounds mental illness. And, she added, her work won’t stop at the end of the event but will continue on in order to bring more resources to Susquehanna County.

The walk raised funds for AFSP, surpassing the orginal goal of $5,000 and exceeding over $27,000.

AFSP focuses its efforts on prevention through its funding of scientific research; offering educational programs for professionals; educating the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention; promoting legislation that impacts prevention; and providing programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss and people at risk.

Carol Cundey, a member of the organizing committee, also stressed the importance for survivors to know that they are not alone.

“There is a huge community of people left behind,” she said. The Out of the Darkness Walk is a way for those survivors to come together. “We need to get away from the stigma and talk about it,” Cundey said.

There are 21 Out of the Darkness Walks being held in Pennsylvania this year; and five AFSP local chapters in the state.

For more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, visit www.afsp.org.