Suicide. It may be an uncomfortable topic, but it’s time we start talking about it. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And in Nevada, it ranks eighth, making it responsible for nearly three times as many deaths as homicide each year.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention aims to break the silence. With a goal of reducing the national suicide rate (currently 13.26 per 100,000 people) by 20 percent by 2025, AFSP’s work includes research, legislative advocacy, education and support groups in all 50 states to empower individuals to detect and prevent suicide.
One way the organization helps to raise awareness is through its community walks. Designed to encourage those affected by suicide to talk about their struggles and to lean on AFSP and its community for support, the volunteer-run Nevada chapter hosts an Out of the Darkness Community Walk on March 25 at Craig Ranch Regional Park.
“Coming to the walk and seeing the amount of people who have been affected by [suicide] and knowing that you are not alone opens more than your eyes; it opens your heart,” says Ashley Ellison, AFSP board member and field advocate. In addition to the 3K walk, there will be a silent auction, remembrance tent for people to bring pictures of their loved ones, resource tables and an Honor Bead ceremony.
Honor Beads are necklaces, each color-coded to signify the wearer’s relationship with suicide, whether he or she has lost a loved one or struggled with it themselves. “Seeing another person wearing a red honor bead and knowing that they too have lost a spouse/partner helped me feel less isolated and know that someone else understood my pain,” says AFSP board member Knachell Kellogg. “It was also a place I didn’t have to hide. Suicide could be spoken about without shame.”
AFSP Nevada has hosted these community walks for the past five years. Last year, the walk raised $70,000, with half of the proceeds going to the organization’s national programs and the other half going directly to the Nevada chapter, helping fund programs such as its Mental Health First Aid Training course, suicide prevention for college students and LGBTQ people, and family therapy workshops.
The healing process of dealing with suicide may be a long road. The support of AFSP and its community gives people a place to grieve, and helps bring the challenges of living with suicide to light.
AFSP Nevada’s Out of the Darkness Community Walk, registration starts at 9 a.m., walk at 10:30 a.m., Craig Ranch Regional Park, 628 W. Craig Rd., North Las Vegas, afsp.org/vegas