Out of The Darkness walk sheds light on the topic of suicide



Henry Fulford designed this graphic for the first Suicide Awareness Session held at Wright Library on Nov. 18. The sessions plan to continue and teach people important information about suicide and its prevention. “Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined, but suicide prevention doesn’t get a fraction of the funding given to cancer, heart disease, or AIDS,” Leigh Ann Fulford said. “Many insurance companies do not cover mental illness and mood disorders, but depression affects 5% to 8% of Americans over age 18—that is a whole lot of people. Ignoring mental illness, depression, or suicide will not make them go away.” Illustration Contributed By Leigh Ann Fulford

On Oct. 29 Oakwood hosted the second annual Out of Darkness suicide awareness walk.

Coordinated by Sallie Wilson Luther with help from team members are Sue Hanna, Leigh Ann Fulford, Kelly Neff, and Mary Linzmeier, the 5k helps raise awareness and money to prevent suicide.

“Most of us have lost a family member to suicide, and that is how we met. We decided we wanted to prevent this tragedy from happening to other families so we organized our team and this walk to spread awareness about suicide,” Team Member Leigh Ann Fulford said.

The Out of Darkness walk was created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and it spreads across the country. The walk sheds light on the important subject of suicide and imparts important educational resources to its participants.

“Many people learn about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through the Out of the Darkness Walks that take place in hundreds of cities across the USA each fall,” Fulford said. “The AFSP provides wonderful resources and educational materials about suicide on its website www.afsp.org.  The AFSP’s goal is to reduce suicide 20% by 2025.”  

The walk helps the community create an important conversation on this issue. Suicide is a topic that causes negative reaction, so the Out of Darkness walks give people an outlet to discuss suicide in a safe setting.

“The Out of the Darkness Walks sheds light on a topic people do not like to talk or think about–suicide.  Many people avoid talking about suicide because of shame, stigma, ignorance, fear, but through our research and personal experiences, we have learned that ignoring suicide does not make it go away,” Fulford said. “In fact, ignoring suicide threats or thoughts is the worst thing a person can do.”

High schoolers are also participating in this discussion and learning more about suicide through this opportunity.

“Having a community involved in supporting people who are impacted by suicide is important because it [creates] a support system for those people in need and it brings light to the growing problem in a more supportive and loving way,” Riley Lockhart (10), a student attendee said.

Even though the Out of Darkness walk for 2015 has passed, the conversation does not need to end. In order to prevent suicide, the public needs to understand how to identify and handle it.

“It is important for us to keep the conversation going.  Suicide is the ‘silent disease’ that kills many people in the US.  More than one million people attempt suicide in our country every year–that is a staggering statistic that many are not aware of because people do not talk about suicide,” Fulford said. “It is important to educate ourselves and share knowledge with one another.  All of us should know the risk factors for suicide and we should be able to identify the warning signs that indicate a person may be having suicidal thoughts.  The AFSP website is a wonderful resource if you want to learn more about how to prevent suicide.”

Oakwood will not end the discussion. Due to support of the walk, a community forum was created so that people can learn about suicide and was held on Nov. 18 at the Wright Library. This session was open to the public to help fully understand details such as warning signs or the personal struggle of those having suicidal thoughts.

By Carlie Shearer



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