It was a bittersweet Saturday morning at Miami’s Tropical Park as the Out of the Darkness Community Walk for the prevention of suicide took place.
The 5k walk was held by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the University of Miami Lifeguards, an outreach program aiming to educate the community on mental health issues, which helped UM students become involved in the cause.
Suicide awareness has been a major focus for AFSP. According to Lorrie Simmons, the area director for the southeast chapter, “there are about 32,500 people a year that commit suicide, and nobody knows or talks about it.”
The non-profit organization created the 5k walk to help people become conscious and aware of the serious condition.
“It is a disease, just like many others,” Simmons said. “It’s not a choice, and the only way to fix it is to create knowledge about it.”
In last year’s first 5k walk at Tropical Park, the AFSP made under $25,000 in donations and attracted 302 registered walkers. This year, the event had 336 walkers preregistered and ultimately had well over 400 participate. The amount of donations this year has not yet been calculated, but appears to be more than the previous year.
Shelley Sturdivant, vice-chair for the board of directors in the southeast region, lost her father to suicide three and a half years ago.
“He was a typical man. We never knew he needed help,” Sturdivant said.
This is the first time Shelley has been at a walk in Miami.
“It’s great to see the kids being educated about the situation,” Sturdivant said.
The University of Miami Lifeguards provided transportation for the event.
The three part mission of the AFSP is to educate, raise money for research and provide support services for those who have lost a family member or close friend to suicide. The Out of the Darkness Community Walks generate knowledge about the situation.
“When it comes to awareness, we have accomplished what we needed to,” Simmons said. “And hopefully it will grow next year.”
Research is also very important to the organization.
“Thirty-five cents out of every dollar goes to research to help look for cures and treatments for suicide prevention,” Simmons said.
Grief support groups help people who have lost others to suicide – called Survivors by the AFSP. There are support services that hold conferences and other events to help them deal with their situations as well.
The 5k walk helped UM students give more attention to the issue. Senior Alana Faintuch was glad she attended.
“The walk really moved me. Suicide is a serious problem that needs to be recognized by everyone,” she said.
The event more than accomplished its goal of creating awareness to suicide prevention.
“The turnout was truly phenomenal,” Simmons said. “It was beyond our expectations, and hopefully knowledge about suicide prevention will only grow in the years to come.”
For more information about the event, visit www.outofthedarkness.org.