AFSP walkathon raises suicide awareness

(Photos Courtesy Adam Taylor, Director of Project Light) Images from the 2007 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Community Suicide Prevention Walk.

Western Herald

One person attempts suicide every minute in the United States, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

This statistic is one that the approximate 200 people who are expected to gather at Prairie View Park in Vicksberg on Sept. 13 to walk in the AFSP annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk hope to combat.

The five-kilometer walk, which runs from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., is designed to raise awareness about suicide help and prevention. The event wraps up national Suicide Prevention Week and will take place at over 50 locations, with thousands of walkers, throughout the month of Sept.

“The walk is such a great community program,” Adam Taylor, Western Michigan University junior, Captain of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender (LBGT) team, and founder or Project Life said. “I walked last year and I know we raised a lot of money for the cause.”

This is the third year Taylor has participated in the event. He admits that this year’s walk is especially sentimental to him because a group he is involved with had an incident with suicide less than a year ago.

Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States among adult age 18 to 65 and the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults according to the AFSP. This rate jumps significantly in LBGT’s, who are three times as likely to attempt suicide. This comes out to around 31,000 suicides a year, or one death every 16 minutes.

The walk is also aimed at raising money for national suicide research and prevention. Approximately 85 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to AFSP programs, national suicide prevention research, and survivor services.

Walkers are encouraged to take pledges in order to raise money for the walk and can win prizes for each specified monetary increment raised.

“Last year we raised around thirty-thousand dollars,” Taylor said. “That a lot of money that can do a lot of good.”

WMU senior and LBGT team member, Vincent Rager, said he believes the walk is a good way to raise awareness about suicide. He has had experience with suicide prevention and he believes strongly in what the AFSP does.

“Last year the walk was pretty successful,” Rager, said. “It seems like its getting bigger and better every year. I’m a psychology major and I want to go into LBGT suicide prevention so the walk is really interesting for me.”

So far, approximately a dozen WMU students have registered to walk. Taylor and the LBGT team are encouraging students and faculty to attend.

This event is open to the public. People can either register online at the AFSP Web site or at Prairie View Park on walk day.

Lunch is served to all participants, immediately after the walk.

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