“Out of the Darkness” community walk at the Bill Barber Memorial Park raised $57,486 with a record 718 pre-registered participants to start an Orange County chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (Melanie Roberts)
Approximately every 14 minutes someone takes their own life, leaving behind family and friends. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and 300 people die by suicide every year in Orange County alone.
Many people involved in suicide prevention only became involved after losing a family member or friend, but the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is trying to start up a chapter in Orange County, to bring awareness to the community and provide support for those that may be struggling with suicidal thoughts.
“Even though AFSP is not a crisis center, we always have individuals that work with us to support people in crisis,” Jessica van der Stad, area director of AFSP, said. “We have events to reach out to people in crisis and give them the needed information and often times it’s just a matter of getting the hotline number out there, to educate people that suicide is preventable.”
The national organization hosts walks to raise money for research and education programs, like the “Out of the Darkness” community walk at the Bill Barber Memorial Park that raised $57,486 with a record 718 pre-registered participants.
The walks, as well as other events held by the AFSP, are a medium to distribute information and offer assistance to those who are survivors of suicide or struggling with suicidal tendencies.
Previous to the actual walk, attendees browsed the various booths from supporting organizations, such as the Jacquelyn Bogue Foundation, that work to “eliminate the stigma of suicide.”
“[Over 1000] kids die every year at the college level and so we have 1,100 backpacks on the ground. There were pictures and personal stories, all kinds of artwork and embroidery,” Linda Borders-Killian, volunteer for the Jacquelyn Bogue Foundation, said. “People were just walking around reading these stories, they’re going, ‘Oh, man. I had no idea.’ We got word later that one kid left a note, and it said, ‘Thank you for this wonderful exhibit. You know, I was suicidal, but I don’t think I’m going to do it because I wouldn’t want to leave that legacy for my family.'”
Along with the informational booths from organizations, the event had a Remembrance Tent set up where “survivors” wrote letters, drew pictures and posted pictures of those who passed from suicide.
Honor beads were distributed to participants as a symbol of why they attended the event. Each color represented a different reason, such as loss of a child or loss of a friend.
Kameron Jones has been involved with suicide walks and events since his college best friend Owen Thomas’ passing in 2010. Jones said events like this show those at risk that there are people who care.
“It makes them realize that it’s okay,” Jones said. “They shouldn’t feel like an outcast, depressed or sad. It’s not just them. It’s common and they can open up about it.”
The suicide walks aren’t only to support those with suicidal tendencies, but also the families impacted by the loss of a loved one.
“The AFSP walk is a community walk that the first intention is to create hope in the community,” volunteer Che Hernandez said. “They can come and be with others that have already lost folks. They can look at resources that might be available that can give them hope in their own life and their own struggles.”
According to the AFSP website, “90 percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death.”
(Courtesy of OC Now @ Saddleback — Deborah Kendrick and Brooke Marquez)