MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The suicide prevention Morgantown Out of the Darkness Walk took place on Saturday, October 2nd, at Krepps Park with a few dozen participants.
The event is organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Cindy Stagg, chairwoman of the West Virginia State Chapter for AFSP, said walks like these are conducted nationwide with the intent of raising awareness.
“They are a way to bring the community together to honor the people we have lost to suicide and to support those who are still alive and struggling,” said Stagg. “We’re trying to keep her here.”
The event started in the park where the pearl ceremony was held.
The ceremony uses pearls to represent different types of suicide. For example, white represents the loss of a child and teal represents a friend or family member of someone who has struggled with someone or attempted suicide.
Every time a color was called out, someone related to it placed a pearl. Stagg said the ceremony could be “life changing”.
That can also be the money that the event brings in.
“We’re almost $ 9,000 for this walk this morning,” Stagg said. “Anyone can still raise funds and it will be added to the Morgantown Walk through December 31st, so money will continue to come in. About half of that goes to West Virginia, and we use it in our communities here. And AFPSP – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers people free training. We don’t ask anyone to come to school and we like Safe Talk and Talk Safe Lines. ”
Stagg said AFSP has “various educational programs” to help people raise awareness of suicide warning signs.
In addition, these programs teach people “how to safely approach someone and very safely ask them if they are thinking of suicide. And it also helps them learn the word because so many people still don’t even want to say it and it’s so stigmatized, ”Stagg said.
“But the main goal is just to save lives and give hope to those who have been suicidal, you know whether they are fighting or they have lost,” Stagg said. “We are a 501C3 organization. All of our money that is used for everything we do is through donations. And we have research, we are involved at both state and federal level. We go to Capitol Hill and talk to our federal officials there who advocate politics and the dollar. “
One of the biggest problems that AFSP and other similar groups have advocated is a new suicide hotline number.
The current number is the National Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255.
However, there was a push to get a three-digit number like 911. When introduced, the new number will be 988, Stagg said.
“It’s going to be like a mental health 911 so people don’t have to remember that long” 800-273-8255 Number, ”she said. “But that’s still out there. That’s a 24/7 resource. People can Text 741741 when they want to talk to someone, when they have trouble. And you don’t have to be suicidal to get to either the crisis line or the text line. Someone is there just to talk to you. If you’re just feeling down and blue and lonely, just hold out your hand. Someone will be there. “
If you are interested in getting involved with AFSP, said Stagg, then you are very welcome. The national chapter of the organization is mostly run by volunteers.
You can find the group through their website. While AFSP doesn’t have support groups, Stagg said, it does have ways of helping people find one.
“We have links to support groups that have information in each state that we know we are safe. We won’t put them there if they are not a safe, good, healthy group. So if you see it on the AFSP website, it has at least been endorsed or its moderators have been trained with funds raised by AFSP. “
Stagg said you can also join the Facebook page, which is where you can find out about events, advocacy and networking.
There are eight walks in the state every year, she said, and all of them are aimed at suicide prevention.
“Our walks are called ‘Out of the Darkness’ because we try to bring mental health and the stigma of suicide out of the dark,” said Stagg. “Because that’s how lives are saved; when people are comfortable talking about it, just as they are comfortable talking about their kidneys or liver or lungs. You need to talk about your brain just as easily. And we want to support. We support educational work. I mean, AFSP is here to do what we can to help people. ”
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline: 800-273-8255.