Walk shines light on suicide prevention

Photo provided by Pam Dove Participants at a previous Out of the Dark Walk demonstrate to bring awareness about suicide in L’Anse. The walk takes place Saturday at the L’Anse Waterfront Park.

L’ANSE — Suicide is a serious issue in the United States, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness walks are intended to publicize the fact, according to Pam Dove.

Dove, chairwoman of the Baraga County Suicide Prevention Coalition, said thousands of people commit suicide in the United States every year.

“It’s a big issue,” she said. “About 117 people a day die from suicide. That’s like a person every 12.3 minutes.”

Saturday will be the fourth year for the Out of the Darkness walk in Baraga County, Dove said. There will be about 375 similar events around the country.

The event is a fundraiser with people taking part by pledging money, and Dove said the goal this year is $10,000.

“Over the past three years, we’ve raised $25,000,” she said.

That money is split 50/50 between the AFSP and the local community, Dove said. It’s used for research and developing suicide prevention programs.

Locally, Dove said money raised by the walks and other sources is used for such things as mental-health first-aid training, applied suicide intervention skills training, training for facilitators for suicide-survivors support groups, signage for suicide programs for middle school and high school students and the Paint the Field Blue event, which involves local football players and cheerleaders wearing blue during a football game.

The Out of the Darkness Walk takes place Saturday at the L’Anse Waterfront Park. Registration is at 9 a.m.

The focus this year is on veterans. At 10 a.m., there will be a speaker representing the military. At 10:30 a.m., there will be a release of balloons, which have comments about the victims of suicide written on them. The walk begins at 11 a.m.

In Houghton, the Houghton and Keweenaw Suicide Prevention Coalition will host a similar event called a Suicide Awareness Walk modeled after the Out of the Darkness Walk, according to a written statement from Copper Country Mental Health Services.

The walk in Houghton will start at 10 a.m. in front of the Super 8 Motel. It will travel along the waterfront to Ray Kestner Waterfront park and return to the hotel.

Dove said half the people who die from suicide suffer from depression, which is a treatable disease.

“Only about 50 percent of people with depression seek help,” she said.

She said Dial Help, which has its headquarters in Houghton, also works in Baraga County and is a big help with suicide prevention.

“They’re great,” she said.

At the L’Anse walk, Dove said there will be a memorial table where people can write about those they knew who were victims of suicide.

Last year the weather for the local walk was rainy, so only about 80 people took part, Dove said. The first two years there were about 200 people taking part. The weather is supposed to sunny Saturday.

The important thing about the Out of the Darkness Walk is to let people know what is available locally for suicide prevention.

“This is really grass-roots,” she said. “We want to break down the wall.”