For the fourth consecutive year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will host the “Out of the Darkness” walk at the University of Maine to raise awareness for suicide.
“We’re continuing it as an annual event because it hasn’t gone away,” said Chuck McKay, a prevention graduate assistant at the counseling center, who helps to organize Out of the Darkness. “It’s still the second-leading cause of death for individuals ages 16 to 24. It’s still a relevant issue in our community with people dealing with depression or anxiety.”
According to the AFSP, 200 Out of the Darkness walks are held each year with the hope of raising money for research and education programs that will help prevent suicide. With one death approximately every 15 minutes, suicide claims over 36,000 people a year.
“They can often lead people to suicidal thoughts if people don’t get it treated,” McKay said. “It’s an important cause. [Thousands] of people in the U.S. die each year from suicide, which is more than a lot of other causes that are well funded for research. The issue of suicide, people don’t like to talk about.”
Founded in 1987, the AFSP has opened over 50 community-based chapters to help the cause, with a couple dozen more in the works. With suicide being a taboo topic, the name of the walk takes on deeper meaning.
“The name ‘Out of the Darkness’ is to bring the issue into light and get people talking about it,” Mckay said. “This is an issue that deserves attention.”
McKay hopes a continued presence by AFSP and particularly the Out of the Darkness walk sustains attention toward the prevention of suicide.
“Having a big event like a walk hopefully gets the media attention as to why we are doing it,” McKay said. “The walkers get sponsorships and we have corporate sponsors that help.”
In 2010, UMaine’s the Out of the Darkness walk raised over $11,000 for suicide prevention research.