Hundreds from the Greater Lehigh Valley talked the talk and walked the walk for suicide awareness. On Sunday, October 14, a procession of walkers listened to speakers talk about suicide and suicide prevention, walked a five-mile loop around Little Lehigh Park, and raised $25,000 to support the efforts of the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.
Suicide is killing the best and the brightest of our country. In the first 155 days of 2012, there were a reported 154 suicides among America's troops-virtually one per day, far out distancing the US forces killed in action in Afghanistan, and the second leading cause of death among the active US military, second only to total combat deaths.
Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among those 18-65 years old, the second leading cause of death among those 15-35 years old, with individuals ages 65 and older accounting for 16 percent of all suicide deaths.
Did you know that? The facts have been closeted - most people don't want to hear about suicide - it's in the closet. That is the reason for this walk, and this walk is called the "Out of the Darkness" Community Walk, a walk to prevent suicide.
The organizers of the walk noted, "In the United States, a person dies by suicide every 15 minutes, claiming more than 36,000 lives each year. It is estimated that an attempt is made every minute, with close to one million people attempting suicide annually. This is a public health issue that does not discriminate by age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status."
"The goals of the walk are multiple," explained Dr. Peter Langman of Langman Psychological Associates, an organizer of the walk. "1. to raise money for research and prevention, 2. to raise awareness, 3. to provide support for people who have lost a loved one to suicide, 4. to make people aware of local resources, 5. for people struggling with mental health issues, and 6. to try to destigmatize mental health issues so more people get the support they need."
"Some people struggle with mental health issues for a long time. Often they are functioning fine, then maybe it's a job loss, or breakup of their marriage, and suddenly they are plunged into a suicidal depression. There are many different ways that people arrive at the point of being suicidal."
Asked what are the warnings, Langman replied, "When people drop out of activities that they used to enjoy and nothing seems to give them pleasure, when they withdraw socially, when their mood is depressed and negative, and when they are pessimistic. They may talk about death. They may make comments such as 'I don't know why I go on. I don't know what the point is anymore.' People like that are depressed and may be suicidal, and might be in need of help."
When he spoke before the walkers, Langman noted, "Suicides take a hundred people a day, every 15 minutes, that is too much. One is too many." He asked the crowd to repeat "One is too many."
"This walk hopefully will raise at least $25,000," Langman said. "Perhaps even more important than the money is giving people a place to come together and publicly remember those who they had lost and to say that suicide is an issue that we need to do something about as a society."
Net proceeds from the Out of the Darkness Community walk benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the national not-for-profit organization dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide. To learn more about AFSP's mission, research and programs visit www.afsp.org.