Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts an Out of the Darkness Walk in cities across the country in an effort to bring awareness to the growing issues of suicide and mental health. It’s a chance for suicide survivors and mental health advocates to interact with each other and reinforce the sometimes-evasive truth that they’re not alone.
The Out of the Darkness Indianapolis Walk is 3-5 p.m. Sept. 14 at White River State Park Celebration Plaza, 801 W. Washington St. Online registration (afsp.donordrive.com) ends at noon Sept. 13, but anyone can register in person beginning at 12:30 p.m. the day of the walk. There is a three-kilometer and five-kilometer walk, both of which trace the White River.
Kelsey Steuer, the state’s area director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said it’s important for survivors to see others and interact with others who understand what they’ve gone through — or what they’re still going through. Steuer said suicide is obviously a “heavy topic,” but the goal is to make it a “hope-filled day.”
A study published in May from the Journal of Community Health made it clear suicide is becoming a bigger problem for African American teenagers. Girls experienced an increase of 182% from 2001 to 2017, and boys saw an increase of 60%.
This year will be TaMara Breeding-Goode’s fifth walk. She has survived four or five suicide attempts — her first was when she was 11 years old — and said she finds inspiration in the event.
“It’s healing because you come together with all different people of all different backgrounds,” she said. “... They come together for this common healing.”
Breeding-Goode, 48, is now executive director of Project WINGS Mental Health and Wellness Ministry at Scott United Methodist Church. Based on her experience as a participant and volunteer at the walk, Breeding-Goode said some people are in the middle of a mental health crisis when they attend the event, so they need immediate help.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has medical professionals at the walk, and there are health vendors. Steuer said it’s sort of like a health fair in that respect.
Along with bringing survivors and advocates together, the Out of the Darkness Walk is also an opportunity to raise money that helps the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention invest in new research, advocate for public policy and create educational programs. The organization’s goal is to reduce the annual suicide rate 20% by 2025.
Some participants have formed teams to raise money. The top fundraiser had $4,755 as of Sept. 9, and the organization had a total of about $244,500. The goal is $275,000.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.