Out of the Darkness suicide awareness walk

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By: Ryleigh Reagan

The 2019 national suicide prevention week is here to bring awareness and support to those struggling with mental illness and remembrance to those who have lost their lives to suicide. 

Out of the Darkness, a suicide prevention walk, was hosted at Bishop LeBlond high school on Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. The event started with booths from groups and organizations such as Mosaic, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and Active Minds, an organization from Missouri Western.

 At 1:30 p.m., the coordinator of the event and the mother of a child with mental illness, Kerry Harvey, spoke about the movement as did several others. Harvey then read off names of those who had lost their lives to suicide, written by attendees of the event and then had a moment of silence in remembrance. Lastly, attendees moved to the track where they could walk as much or as little as they wanted to show their support for suicide prevention. 

The numbers for this year’s event were unsure, but last year there were over 300 people that showed up, and they raised over $22,000. Before the event started this year, more than $21,000 had been raised and more was still being donated. This was only the second year for the suicide prevention walk to be held at Leblond. Previously it has been held in Columbia and Fulton, Missouri. 

While it was hosted at LeBlond, the high school was not the one in charge. Kerry Harvey had started a group called Forever Fighters to raise awareness. Harvey then got in touch with the AFSP to host the Out of the Darkness walk. The walks were created to bring light to suicide and mental illness, topics that has been  stigmatized in the past and rarely talked about. 

“We need to talk about it because it’s real and the more you talk about it, the more people feel comfortable with it. (Mental Illness) is an illness just like cancer is an illness, so we need to talk about it,” Harvey said.

Another who agreed with Harvey is the founder of Alec’s Army, Jennifer Turner. Turner lost her son Alec in August of 2017 to suicide, and as a way of coping she started painting rocks with words of love and encouragement on them.

“I’ve painted close to 500 rocks,” Turner said. “I give them away free. The rocks have all the suicide awareness on the back, the prevention number, the text number.”

Jennifer Turner brought over 100 rocks to the suicide prevention walk, all the way from Caifornia where she currently lives. Her rocks have travelled all over the world to bring awareness to suicide and its prevention.

“I’m in a group I neve ever wanted to be in, but now I have a different purpose in my life, and it will be being Alec’s voice,” Turner said.

Another of the organizations present was Active Minds, a Missouri Western group of social work majors that wanted to bring awareness to mental health and suicide prevention to the whole campus. Active Minds has only been at Missouri Western since last year, but are hoping that events like this will help them to become more well known. Their goals are helping others through difficult times and helping find any resources they can. 

“I think awareness is really important because I feel like everybody knows someone who’s struggling even if they don’t know it. So if you’re aware of it and educated, you can help that friend or help yourself”,” said Active Minds president and Missouri Western senior Tori Bond. 

The money raised from Out of the Darkness goes to brain research for mental health, advocacy in Washington, D.C. for better laws to support mental health and suicide prevention, and to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you wish to learn more about Kerry Harvey’s foundation, you can find more on their Facebook page End the Stigma-The Forever Fighters.

If you wish to know more about Jennifer Turner’s memory rocks, you can visit her Facebook page Alec’s Army.

If you wish to learn more about suicide prevention or want to donate you can go to www.afsp.org.