Hundreds of survivors — those who are living after the death of a loved one by suicide — gathered at George Mason University on Saturday for the sixth annual American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Fairfax NOVA Out of the Darkness Community Walk.
Steve Iselin, chairman of the board of the group's National Capital Area Chapter, said the local walk is one of 275 in communities across the country. "It used to be when someone was diagnosed with cancer, no one would talk about it," said Iselin. "Then it was HIV/AIDS. Now suicide is the health issue people are afraid to talk about," he said.
The shame associated with suicide prevents responsible discussion and sharing of resources that can save lives, bring compassionate help to those suffering with mental health issues and provide support to survivors, he said.
"Ninety percent of all people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death," reports the group. "We believe scientific research, better treatments and effective education of professionals and the public will best prevent this tragic loss of life."
Out of the Darkness Community Walks are one way in which AFSP works toward "understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide."
Saturday's event featured:
- Informational displays by groups including CrisisLink and AFSP
- Speakers, including Springfield, Va., licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Amanda Warbel and Lorijane Graham, author of the "Hummingbird Project for Anyone Who Has Encountered Suicide."
- Remembrance Displays paying tribute to loved ones who died by suicide.
- An opportunity for survivors of suicide loss to offer each other reassurance and hope.
- A walk to raise money for continued research and programs.
If you are in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK to speak to someone immediately through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
For more information about suicide prevention and survivor healing, read this list of local resources.
September 9 - 15 is National Suicide Prevention Week.