Walk helps bring suicide, depression into the light

Published 10:41 am Thursday, November 4, 2010

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

NORTH SHELBY — As participants walk during the Out of the Darkness Walk at Heardmont Park Nov. 7, they will be surrounded by empty pairs of shoes — 667 of them, to be exact.

Each pair of shoes will represent an Alabama resident lost to suicide in 2009. Unfortunately, the number of shoes is growing each year, said event organizer Lisa Dunn.

“It’s just a very powerful statement,” she said.

The walk has grown in its five years, from 156 walkers that first year to 699 walkers last year.

Dunn said organizers expect 1,000 walkers this year.

“As the walk has grown, so has the suicide crisis,” she said in an e-mail. “In the state of Alabama, in 2008, there were 603 suicides and 450 homicides. In 2009, there were 667 suicides and 411 homicides. Nationally, a suicide attempt is made every minute of every day.”

Dunn said the event’s true goal is to teach people how to prevent suicides.

“We are reaching out to teach the warning signs and what to do if warning signs are present,” she said. “The more people who know the signs, the better are our chances of turning the trend.”

Such warning signs include pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, withdrawal, sleep problems, increased alcohol or drug use, taking unnecessary risks, threatening suicide, giving away prized possessions, sudden purchase of a firearm, obtaining other means of killing oneself, such as poisons or medications, expressing a wish to die and unexpected rage or anger.

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 if loved ones are exhibiting these symptoms.

The walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will begin at 3 p.m. Nov. 7. The cutoff for online registration is Nov. 6 at 11:45 p.m., but those who wish to participate can still sign up at the event. Check-in time is from 1:30-3 p.m.

Donations will be taken for the event until Dec. 31. So far, the walk has brought in more than $90,000 in donations.

For more information on the event, visit Outofthedarkness.org or contact Dunn at ldunn@afsp.org.