Several walks will take place throughout the área this month in an effort to show people they are not alone.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month and Out of the Darkness community walks will take place in Alliance and Scottsbluff on Sept. 12. Sidney will also host an event on Sept. 20. The goal is to raise awareness about the effects of suicide.
With everything that 2020 has brought, organizer Carisa Crawford believes the event is more important than ever, particularly for younger people.
“The isolation of being stuck at home has really had an impact on youth,” she said. “Just talking to their parents, I have been hearing and reading a lot of stories of kids showing signs of depression. They’re becoming withdrawn, crying more frequently or acting out more. Being isolated is hard.”
The walk is an opportunities for families to learn about resources and start a discussion with their children about their feelings and how to cope with them.
“We need to be having those age-appropriate discussions,” she said.
Suicide isn’t limited to any one demographic, she said, as 1 in 4 people live with a mental health condition. It doesn’t discriminate.
“Suicide is a public health problem plagued by silence and stigma that continues to be a barrier for seeking help,” Janelle Visser, health educator for Panhandle Public Health District said. “These walks help bring suicide out of the darkness and raise money for education, prevention and awareness programs.”
Last year’s event in Scottsbluff drew 65 participants and raised $2,500, which was the largest on record. Crawford said the goal this year is to get 150 people to participate.
Pre-registration is open and encouraged and can be completed at afsp.donordrive.com.
“It costs nothing to register,” she said. “You can form a team with friends, colleagues or whoever and work as a team to raise money through personal donations or donations from other people or businesses.”
So far, $600 has been raised so far.
Crawford was worried the event wouldn’t happen, like so many others in the valley, which put planning behind. Last year, a large portion of the money was raised through a raffle.
“This year, I don’t have anything to raffle,” she said. “I had to put off the planning and nobody has anything to donate right now because of COVID.”
Organizers are taking a different approach with a 50/50 raffle. Hand sanitizer and PPE will be on hand at the Scottsbluff walk and water will be available. There will also be live music.
“You will want to wear good walking shoes if you plan to walk,” she said.
If someone knows somebody struggling with mental illness and would like resources to help support them, they are encouraged to call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline is also available for individuals who are in a crisis. Additionally, a crisis text line can be accessed by texting “HOME” to 741-741.
For more information regarding community suicide prevention efforts, contact Visser at 487-3600 ext. 105. Additional information about suicide prevention and warning signs can be found at www.afsp.org.