Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention: A Reflection

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American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is a national organization focused on research and prevention of suicide, advocating for public policy related to suicide and mental health, and supporting those affected by suicide. AFSP puts on Out of the Darkness Walks across the country that brings people together for an important cause and fundraises for AFSP’s programs.  

I have attended Out of the Darkness Walks in the past. In October, I attended the New York City walk. The walk was located in Battery Park City along the waterfront and included speakers, informational tables, and activities. The atmosphere was filled with hope and empowerment that further demonstrated the importance of mental health awareness. Some activities and tables that stood out were the honor beads table, The Orange Project, and Thrive NYC.

 

The honor beads table was filled with buckets of different colored beads that coincided to different ways people are affected by suicide. Walkers wore beads that connected them to the cause. Seeing all of the different colored beads in the crowd and multiple colors on individuals physically demonstrated that so many people are impacted by suicide. By putting on the different colored beads I was acknowledging the ways suicide has affected my life. A seemingly simple task of putting on necklaces became a moment of consciousness. I was letting everyone see my colors and everyone was letting me see theirs. The beads connected everyone there; the blue beads, the beads for supporting suicide prevention, were a unifying thread.  

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The Orange Project is a movement to provide messages of hope to those struggling and help destigmatize suicide by raising awareness of suicide prevention. At the walk, people were able to write down encouraging words on orange sticky notes for the project. I was hesitant to write, I did not know if I was going to say the right words, but that is the point of the project: speaking up even if you are unsure, saying something, anything because it might help someone. There was a board that continued to fill up with positive messages and multiple clipboards for the overflowing support the project was receiving. The note Hold On Pain Ends (HOPE) drew me in, I have heard and seen that phrase so many times that it has been engraved in my mind, but it still resonates with me. It is what has to be remembered when it feels like such a lie, because it is true.

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Thrive NYC is the mental health plan for New York City started by Chirlane McCray the First Lady of New York City. Thrive NYC is guided by six main goals: change the culture, act early, close treatment gaps, partner with communities, use better data, and strengthen government’s ability to lead. The plan will help support those affected by mental illness, provide mental health first aid training, and aim to reduce crises.

The walk was a powerful experience filled with emotion. It is crucial to spread awareness, provide support, and increase education about mental health and suicide. In New York, one person dies by suicide every 5 hours and nationally there are 121 suicides per day, for every suicide, there are 25 attempts. In New York, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for people 15-24 and nationally it is the 2nd. These statistics are devastating but can be changed. AFSP has made it their goal to reduce the annual suicide rate to 20% by 2025. Having people close to you be so entrenched in pain that they cannot see another way out is heartbreaking. Witnessing them breaking down and trying to do everything you can to help, to pull them out of that tortured state, but never being able to do enough is agonizing. But it is possible to come out of that state, to emerge stronger and braver. It is possible to keep fighting for life. I am so inspired by all those who fight every day. I am so inspired by the people I do not know, the people who silently struggle but are still going. Suicide is preventable through education, support, and awareness.

 

To get involved in helping prevent suicide visit https://afsp.org/take-action/

To be a part of The Orange Project visit http://worthliving.today

To learn more about Thrive NYC visit https://thrivenyc.cityofnewyork.us

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255