Frederick held its first annual Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk 5:30 p.m. Oct. 8. Walkers met on the Star Square in downtown Frederick.
American Foundation Suicide Prevention or AFSP sponsors walks all over America. The group also funds research aimed at improving understanding of suicide and ways to prevent it as well as educational programs to increase awareness about prevention, warning signs and the psychiatric illnesses that can lead to suicide.
“The Out of the Darkness walk was a beautiful community effort to raise awareness and funds for the prevention of suicide and help for mental illness,” Karen Dill said. “I was honored to walk in loving memory of my husband’s Uncle Johnny and Cousin Vin, my friend Greg, my youth minister Robert, my friend Ronnie, family member of friends Lucas and my fellow preacher’s kid Braxton. Their lives did not have to be abbreviated and their absence is felt deeply. There is hope and there is help.”
At this year’s 2015 Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Council Conference, AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Community Walks earned a spot in the such events in America.
All proceeds from the Frederick walk help support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s local and national educational and advocacy program. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the eighth leading cause of death overall in Oklahoma.
Amanda Bankenship was in charge of hosting the event in Frederick. She got involved because it has been 15 years since she lost her daughter’s father to suicide.
“Suicide is a word that is shunned, misunderstood and killed by silence,” Blankenship said. “It’s not fully recognized until you personally feel the impact. Mental health is not something that is talked about nor celebrated and this stigma prevents many from seeking help. As a survivor, I wanted to share my story and knowledge to bring change, kill the stigma and ‘Be the Voice’.”
Blankenship said she wanted a closer walk than Wichita Falls, Tulsa, Oklahoma City or Woodward.
“I felt the need to organize a walk to bring awareness and represent Southwest Oklahoma,” she said. “It’s through walks like these that raise awareness and financial support to help AFSP continue their research efforts and help place prevention and education programs in our local schools as well as developing new education and survivor programs.”
The event had about 120 participants who walked 2.7 miles through the community. Afterward speakers shared their stories of inspiration and hope and it ended with a balloon release to honor loved ones. Participants raised $6306.75. There were people who traveled from as far away as Geronimo, Duncan and even Seattle, Wash. to participate.
Donations will be accepted until Dec. 31. To make a donation, visit afsp.org/frederickok.
AFSP has 50 chapters across the United States. Every year hundreds of Out of the Darkness Community, Campus and Overnight walks are held. AFSP’s goal is to reduce the suicide rate 20 percent by the year of 2025.
“The walks raise awareness and lift the stigma that is placed so heavily on suicide,” Jennifer Jennings said. “More importantly, money raised is used for research, so maybe someday we can understand more and prevent more. We want to see suicide on the decline not the rise.”
Jennings lost a brother-in-law to suicide in 2014, and attended her first Out of the Darkness walk in 2015 in Wichita Falls, Texas.
To find out how to get involved in suicide prevention awareness events or to make a donation, visit afsp.org.
Reach Kathleen Guill at 580-379-0588, ext. 2602.