Despite an increasing awareness about mental illness and suicide prevention, there is still work to be done.
“People don’t like to talk about these kinds of things,” Carisa Crawford, organizer of a walk aimed at raising awareness about suicide prevention, said. “It’s something we shove in the closet, you know? It’s something we put in the dark.”
This weekend, area residents will be bringing light to mental health and suicide prevention during several Out of the Darkness Walk events.
In Scottsbluff, an event will take place at the YMCA Pavilion. This year, participants can preregister online at afsp.org/walks or in person on Saturday starting at 4 p.m. The walk starts at 4:30 p.m.
There is no cost to register. By registering online, walkers can share their page to social media to earn sponsorships from family and friends. Funds raised go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Everything goes toward finding ways to prevent suicide and support those who survived,” Crawford said. “When we say suicide survivors, it’s not just those who have attempted suicide, but also the families who are surviving a loss.”
A walk is also scheduled to take place in Alliance on Saturday at the Performing Arts Center, with registration beginning at 7:30 a.m. The walk will begin at 8 a.m.
On Sunday, a walk will take place at the Legion Park Shelter House in Sidney. Registration is at 4 p.m. with the walk beginning at 7 p.m.
Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death among Nebraskans. For Nebraskans aged 15-34, it’s the second leading cause of death. It’s the third for those aged 35-44, according to statistics provided by Crawford.
“A lot of people in our community are affected by suicide,” Crawford said.
Although this is her first year as the organizer, Crawford got involved in the walk a few years ago after her mother attempted suicide.
“She’s not the first person in my life who has tried it,” Crawford said. “I’ve had other loved ones who died from suicide.”
She believes that the event isn’t just those who have lost loved ones — it’s also a show of support for those who are in the midst of their own battle.
“If we bring the discussion about suicide into the public and treat it like something that is worth talking about, then people won’t feel so alone,” she said.