By Katelyn Murphy
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Family members and friends who have had a loved one commit suicide came out in force Saturday morning to walk and spread awareness of the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosted the Out of the Darkness walk at Towson University on Saturday to raise awareness and money to help prevent suicide.
More than 100 people participated in the event, which raised more than $7,000 that will go towards the AFSP to engage in research, advocate for public policy, support survivors of suicide loss, and create educational programs.
Participants in the walk ranged from student groups on campus to families that had experienced the loss of a loved one from suicide.
“A lot of my sorority sisters volunteer at these types of events because this hits home for some of us,” said Megan Humphries, who attended the walk with some of her sorority sistgers. “I have had some family members who have experienced depression and mental illness and who have attempted suicide.”
At the walk, there were tables with facts and information about suicide and mental illness, with members of the AFSP Maryland chapter there to explain suicide warning signs and what people can do if they think someone is exhibiting these signs.
Kat Olbrich, area director for the AFSP Maryland chapter, passed out pamphlets with information on suicide prevention and information on how people can educate themselves more on the topic.
“It is so important that we work to raise awareness that mental health conditions are not a stigma, and they should be talked about just like any other sickness,” Olbrich said. “To prevent suicide we must give hope to those who are lost and recognize warning signs such as changes in how a person talks, their behavior and their mood. Through advocacy programs like this we can educate the public on what they can do to make a difference and potentially save someone’s life.”
A student group at Towson, Active Minds, was at the walk volunteering and supporting those who have been affected by suicide in their life.
Stephanie Lietzau, a member of Active Minds, was at the walk advocating for suicide and mental health awareness.
“Having events like these, especially a walk where people can come together, is so important,” Lietzau said. “For people who have lost someone due to suicide, it’s a nice environment to have to remember and honor that person, whether it be a family member or friend.”
Lorae Heffner, a member of Seasons: Suicide Bereavement Support Group, was there with her group to support each other and walk to remember loved ones that they have lost.
“It is so important that college campuses support mental illness awareness and education, because so many young people are affected by mental illnesses, with college being such a difficult time for so many people,” Heffner said. “Campuses need to provide resources for their students and have events like the Out of the Darkness Walks so they know that they are never alone and that they are cared about.”
William Newman, a former Towson University student, has participated in many different Out of the Darkness Walks and advocacy events. He has lost friends to suicide and wants the community to keep getting involved to save lives.
“If you’re concerned about someone you care about, do something, say something, you can make a difference,” Newman said. “If you are suffering, remember that silence is deadly. Get the help you need and deserve. Do not be afraid to break the silence.”
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, a free 24/7 service that provides support to suicidal persons and those around them.