Earlier today I joined family, friends, and members of my community in walking to end the stigma around mental health and reduce the suicide rate by 25% by 2025. Roughly 1600 people were in attendance in Cleveland as we heard stories from survivors and families of those who lost their battle.
Suicide has impacted my life in so many different ways and I felt that this year I was ready to attend a walk and expose myself to others who come from similar experiences. When we arrived, I was amazed. I didn’t expect to feel so much overwhelming support and solidarity from everyone there.
Prior to walk day, those registered (and even some who had not registered) collected donations for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Together, we raised over $146,000 which was more than our targeted amount for the walk! One team alone collected $8,000 in donations!
At the walk, participants wore different colored beaded necklaces to represent why they walked. I did not originally plan on representing myself at this walk, but after walking around and seeing others doing the same, I gathered the courage to don a green beaded necklace. This symbolized my personal struggle with suicidal thoughts and mental health. I’m not one who likes to broadcast my struggles- especially in a society where it’s taken as a plea for attention. However, today felt like a day where I could be open about my struggles with mental health and not be judged or ashamed.
My team and I also sported buttons with the names of those we walked for. I was proud to carry the names of my loved ones close to my heart as I walked. Writing the several names down on the buttons and seeing the different names each person had on theirs was chilling. It was hard to process that so many people know of more than one person who lost their life to suicide.
Before we began walking throughout Cleveland, we heard the story of a widow who had lost her husband only a few short years ago. She talked about the time leading up to her husband’s passing as well as her adjustment afterward. Hearing her story was sobering.
I can list several people whose lives crossed paths with mine that have taken their own lives- friends, relatives, classmates, members of my community. It’s a painful reality that we are hoping to change each and every day.
Today I walked for those I knew.
Today I walked for myself.
Today I walked for anybody who needed or needs help getting out of the darkness.
I look forward to doing this walk again in the future and sharing more memories with the community of survivors and loved ones of those who have passed on.
I am still collecting donations to go toward the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention! If you would like to donate, click here!