Ann Marie Calabrese, chairman for the first annual Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention and Awareness, calls the recent event held at the Hometown Farmers Market a "great success."

Over 250 participants took part in the three-mile walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Schuylkill County Suicide Prevention Task Force and RHD-Power of Carbon County. A portion of the proceeds also remained in Carbon and Schuylkill counties for local AFSP programs, which is a nonprofit agency that provides support for those impacted from depression and the survivors of suicide.

A person dies by suicide every 16 minutes in this country. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. among adults 18 to 65, the third leading causing of death among teens and young adults. Individuals aged 65 and older account for 16 percent of all suicide deaths.

Calabrese, who lost her sister, Mary Ann, 35, to suicide in 1997, said she used the event to channel her own grief in a positive way as well as help others.

"I have had to watch too many families go through the same pain and grief over and over since then," she said.

Calabrese pointed out that many have experienced losing someone to suicide, and some questions will never be answered. She has one herself regarding treatment.

Because the diagnosis and treatment of illness associated with mood disorders are misunderstood by the general public, it often forces loved ones to suffer in silence. Some do not know about or do not receive the proper help they need.

"We are losing so many great people to suicide," said Gail Strohl of Lehighton, who lost her son, Kyle, four years ago.

Strohl, who is hoping to start a suicide prevention task force in Carbon county, also credits HALOS, Hope After a Loved One Suicide, a Lehighton-based support group for helping family and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide. The group, she said, offers a place to talk, listen, and get support for healing.

For more information and HALOS meet, contact her at (610) 377-2035 or Dolores Delaney at (610) 377-3960.

Members of the Carbon County Chapter of The Compassionate Friends, who assist families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child of any age and to provide information to help others be supportive, also had a table at the event, offering dozens of informative pamphlets. For more information about the group, visit www.compassionatefriends.org [3] or call (610) 826-2938.

Linda Wagner is coordinator, Schuylkill County Suicide Prevention Task Force, SCSPTF, which has been in existence since 2004. It was created as a subcommittee of the Schuylkill County Vision Mental Health Committee, created in 1999, to provide public information, reduce the stigma of accessing services, and train providers in the recognition of suicidal behavior and provision of timely services.

Over the years, SCSPTF, has addressed the high suicide rate in the county through public education forums, conferences, creating a speakers' bureau, and distributing information about risk factors, signs of suicide, as well as county resources available for assistance. The SCSPTF, in conjunction with the Mental Health Subcommittee, has also sponsored training over the past two years related to recognizing the signs of suicide in schools and bullying prevention.

For more information about or to volunteer with the SCSPTF, call them at (570) 621-2890.

Pat Gainey is regional director for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, AFSP. For more information about AFSP, visit www.afsp.org [4].

Tara McCarroll Stauffenberg, Dudefest event chairwoman, who lost her brother to suicide in 2009, also spoke about suicide prevention and awareness and ways to help.

Colorful "Honor Beads" were also provided to walkers, representing loss of sibling, friend or family member, child or grandchild, spouse or partner and parents.

Other organizations, such as St. Luke's and the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Mental Health Program, also had stands at the event as well. The program's 24-hour mental crisis hot line is (800) 849-1868.

Skye, a certified therapy dog owned by Kimberly Noel, was also on hand during the walk, comforting families and friends of loved ones lost to suicide. Noel, also provided her number, (570) 624-9674, if anyone would like Skye to stop and provide local comfort.

Donations are still being collected online until Dec. 31, 2011. For more information or to donate visit www.outofthedarkness.org [5].