Walking in the light

Published 7:01 pm Monday, September 15, 2008

Hundreds of walkers took solemn steps around Heardmont Park Sept. 13 in memory of loved ones and perfect strangers lost to suicide.

The Out of Darkness 5K event raised more than $100,000 for suicide prevention. The Alabama Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention anticipates raising $50,000 more by November.

“The goal of the AFSP is to raise awareness about suicide and work to reduce the stigma affiliated with suicide so more people in need will reach out,” said Mary Bartlett, chapter board member and counseling track coordinator at the University of Montevallo. “We want to educate communities about suicide, conduct research to understand suicide and its prevention better, and to support those left behind after the loss of someone to suicide.”

Suicide takes the lives of more than 500 people each year in Alabama alone. More than 32,000 commit suicide nationally, making it the 11th leading cause of death in the country.

Bob Gebbia, the executive director of the AFSP spoke to the almost 400 walkers Saturday and thanked them for working hard to raise awareness. Alabama was fourth among state chapters raising money last year. The majority of that money will go towards research and development of programs to prevent suicide and raise awareness.

Bartlett said the next awareness event will be the Survivor of Suicide Conference to be held Saturday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. at the Oak Mountain High School Library.

The event will allow survivors to watch a web cast from New York that will feature a panel of family survivors talking with a mental health provider.

“It is a humbling experience and gives loved ones a chance to be with other survivors, and to listen to the stories of others,” Bartlett said.

For more information on suicide prevention, visit www.outofthedarkness.org and www.afsp.org/alabama. To reach the local chapter, call 323-4433.