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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Keep Talking

Keep Talking

by Melissa Christiansen, MA, LPC Intern

Supervised by Katrena Hart, MS, LPC Supervisor

This is a re-post of a blog I wrote one year ago.  April 25, 2016, was the anniversary of my experience participating in Dallas's first Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk for suicide awareness and prevention. I walked all night with a team of my neighbors, including Norma Walker, mother of 15 year old Sadie Walker, who took her own life on Christmas Day.  Read more about the Walkers' mission at SadieWalkerFoundation.org.

 

I heard about the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in Dallas during the fall of 2014. It’s an annual fundraiser organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). I knew I wanted to be a part of it, but did I want to walk overnight? All night?

Yup.  And so did 1,400 other people.

On April 25, 2015, I walked all night long around Dallas with a very special team of women from my neighborhood, to lift up a courageous family. 

You can read about our mission for the walk at SadieWalkerFoundation.org.

Mental illness and suicidal thoughts seem loudest when we feel isolated, alone, and separated from all the “normal” we see around us.

(By the way, “normal” is just a setting on the dryer – one of my favorite sayings!)

For many people, including myself, isolation and despair can feel heaviest at night.  It’s as if the world is slumbering away peacefully while we are awake, tormented and alone in the dark. So the symbolism of walking “out of the darkness” on an overnight walk into the dawn, to shine light on the issue of suicide – this holds huge meaning.

These are the stats on suicide, according to the AFSP (most data are from 2013):

  • In Texas, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 15-34
  • Suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined
  • More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined
  • In 2013, the highest rate of suicide in the US occurred among people aged 45-64 years old
  • White males accounted for 70% of all suicides in 2013
  • Nationwide, for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death (CDC)
  • Each year in the U.S., approximately 2 million U.S. adolescents attempt suicide, and almost 700,000 receive medical attention for their attempt (AACAP, 2001)

It’s a scary epidemic.  But it is preventable.

The main way to prevent suicide? Talk about it.

And people want to talk.

On our walk, people sat on their lawns to cheer us on. 

Cars stopped to say, ”Thank you for doing this.” 

People came out of their homes to greet us as we walked through their neighborhoods - At 11PM, at 1AM, at 3AM in the morning.

“I waited up so I could shake your hand.” 

“What you are doing matters so much.” 

Some of the most amazing people were the volunteers protecting walkers and those manning the AFSP cheer stations.  They lit the streets, rode bikes back and forth, even walked with us for long stretches. 

One man was at every single cheer station. He stayed all night to cheer. When his group dispersed, he stayed and cheered for us by himself. 

For me, this is proof we are not alone. 

We have times where we feel so disconnected, so incredibly burdened, like no one can reach us.  Or maybe we believe that no one would want to. But with this fundraiser, I’ve seen proof that we are not alone – people were going out of their ways to say, “I’ve felt this way before.”

Suicide and mental illness thrive on secrecy, lack of knowledge, shame, guilt and isolation.  Keep talking – take back that power. Talk with your neighbors, your friends, your kids, and your parents. And if you see or hear any suicidal warning signs, tell someone.  For kids especially, they need to know they must share what they see and hear.  Do not keep these secrets!

If a person talks about:

Killing him/herself.

Having no reason to live

Being a burden to others

Feeling trapped

Unbearable pain

 

If a person shows these behaviors:

Increased use of alcohol or drugs

Acting recklessly

Withdrawing from activities

Isolating from family and friends

Sleeping too much or too little

Visiting or calling people to say goodbye

Giving away prized possessions

Aggression

 

Tell someone.

The AFSP Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk means something.

And, to so many, it can mean everything. So keep talking and share what you know.  You could save someone’s life.

To learn more about suicide prevention and mental health support, and for information about upcoming fundraisers, go to AFSP.org and SadieWalkerFoundation.org.


 

CONTACT US

Bridging Harts Institute & Psychotherapy
203 S. Alma St. Suite #300
Allen, TX 75013
T: (972) 562 5002
Email: info@bridgingharts.com

   

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