Sept 26 – OUT OF THE DARKNESS WALK 9am registration; 10am-12N walk program. Ocean City. 410-632-1100 or email@example.com.
Sept 19 – OUT OF THE DARKNESS WALK 10am registration; 11:30-2pm walk program. Navy Marine Corps Stadium, Annapolis. 202-770-8973 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Out of the Darkness Walk and Paws for Prevention Come to the Mid-Shore Region
If you listen to the news or read a newspaper any day of the week, you can’t help but conclude that we have a mental health crisis in our nation. Too often, individuals with undiagnosed or untreated mental illness inflict harm on themselves and others.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, the third leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds, and the second leading cause of death among 24- to 34-year-olds. Suicide continues to take more lives each year, one every 14 minutes in 2010 according to the most recent data. More than 90 percent of people who take their own lives have one or more treatable mental health illness at the time of their death.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is one not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide. AFSP has partnered with Mid-Shore Mental Health Systems, Inc. and the Queen Anne’s County Partnership for Suicide Prevention to bring an Out of the Darkness Walk to the mid-shore at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6 at Kent Narrows. The mid-shore will join the more than 300 communities nationwide that held Out of the Darkness Community Walks last year, involving more than 160,000 walkers and 400,000 supporters.
The walk will benefit the Maryland Chapter of AFSP and will raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. “Funds raised will support AFSP’s research, education, and advocacy efforts and bring important AFSP programs to our local communities,” said Patricia Kotzen, Queen Anne’s County resident and chair of the walk organization committee. In addition to reaching out to people with mental health diagnoses, Kotzen said the AFSP provides local programs and resources to support those impacted by suicide.
Kotzen knows all too well the devastating effect when a loved one dies by suicide. “Life changed for us forever on February 7, 2010, when our son, Kevin, took his life,“ she said. “We were in shock and disbelief. Kevin didn’t exhibit any of the common warning signs that he was at risk.”
Kotzen said since then she often wonders whether her son would be alive today if the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide didn’t exist.
“Would he have told us he was struggling? Could we have saved him? We’ll never know,” she said. “It’s time to shine a light on mental illness and suicide, and that’s what the Out of the Darknesswalks are designed to do.”
The Mid-Shore Maryland Out of the Darkness Walk will begin at Kent Narrows and follow a trail of about three miles. Registration starts at 4 p.m. and the walk begins at 5 p.m. It will be followed by a picnic-style dinner, entertainment, and informative speakers. The evening will conclude with a candlelight vigil to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.
To add another element of fun, walkers are invited to bring their dog, as part of the Paws for Prevention initiative. Research has shown that pets can aid in treatment of mental and emotional disorders. For a donation of $10 or more, walkers can bring their dogs and receive a pet bandana recognizing their support for the goals of AFSP.
Residents of the five-county region of the mid-shore and anyone who supports AFSP’s goals are encouraged to participate, either as individuals or as members of teams. Walkers may register free online at http://afsp.donordrive.com/event/midshore.
Once registered, walkers will have their own fundraising pages. There is no minimum fundraising goal, but walkers who raise at least $150 by the date of the walk will receive a free Out of the Darkness t-shirt. People who want to be involved but can’t walk can register as virtual walkers and raise money to support the effort.
“When you sponsor or walk in the Mid-Shore Maryland Out of the Darkness Walk, you help bring needed AFSP education and survivor support programs to our local community,” Kotzen said. “You join the effort with thousands of people to raise funds and awareness in support of AFSP’s vision to create a nation without suicide.”
Contact Kotzen at 410-643-7674 or email@example.com to learn more, volunteer or become a sponsor.