Out of darkness walk looks to end stigma surrounding suicide

STORY BY NICK McCOY
PHOTOS BY KIERNAN McCARTY

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosted the Out of the Darkness walk on Saturday. The walk’s common goal was to end the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health. 

“We want to see a lot more awareness of what people can do to help in their communities,” event co-organizer Ashton Gebhard said. “In the past, we’ve talked about how community connection is one of the major things that help people when they’re in a state of crisis if they have somebody they trust in the community that they can reach out to. So, we want people to be aware of how they can be that person, and so people know that there are those around them that would be willing to help.”

The event featured several activities attendees could participate in, such as sidewalk chalking and buying shirts, as well as a guest speaker from former FHSU President Ed Hammond.

Attendees could wear different colored beads which indicated their loss. For example, red represented the loss of a spouse/partner, while gold represented the loss of a parent. 

The walk itself had various attendees walking down Main Street, 7th street, and back to the park. 

Gebhard, along with co-organizer Kyle Carlin, have been hosting the event for six years. Gebhard expressed his beliefs on what the community will be able to do to help with suicide prevention and awareness.

“I think a lot of it is simpler than people realize,” Gebhard said. “Just as much as when they’re at work or in class, there’s someone struggling with something.  A person really just needs time away from doing something so they can reset themselves, and having compassion to let people do that [is important]. We’re hoping that people who come to this go out and show those kinds of traits in their community.” 

The event was personal for a lot of the attendees present. Becky Clark, who has worked as a mental health therapist, explains why she attended the event. 

“It was about ending the stigma around people reaching out for help,” Clark said. “I’ve had a family member pass away from suicide, as well as a very close friend of mine. So, it’s a personal thing to me that people know it’s ok to reach out for help when they need it.”

The proceeds generated from the walk will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the event itself is meant to let people know they are not alone and that it’s OK to ask for help.

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