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The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will hold its fourth annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Oct. 12 to raise funds and awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.

Events like the Out of the Darkness Community Walk are important because "they help bring awareness to it and just start the conversation, kind of helping to erase the stigma and get people comfortable talking about mental health and suicide," event organizer Kay Ekey said Tuesday.

"They help people realize that they're not alone, that there are many others in this community that have also dealt with these issues," Ekey said.

Suicide is widely recognized as a public health issue and is the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S. and Arkansas, according to the foundation. It is the second-leading cause of death in the state for people 15-34 years old. Arkansas ranks ninth in the nation for highest suicide rate.

In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide and there were an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts. In 2015, suicide and self-injury cost the U.S. $69 billion.

As of 2019, on average, one person dies by suicide every 14 hours in Arkansas. More than four times as many people died by suicide in Arkansas in 2017 than in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. Suicide cost Arkansas a total of $540,251,000 in combined lifetime medical and work loss in 2010, or an average of $1,208,615 per suicide death.

To address this public health issue, events and programs in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week, which began Sunday and runs through Saturday, will occur all over the country. The weeklong awareness event was founded in 1975; September is also National Suicide Prevention Month.

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk will take place from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 12. The walk route will be about three quarters of a mile long, and run along Bathhouse Row and Central Avenue. Fund raised at the event will be used to fund "both innovative research and advocacy initiatives," a news release said.

Last year's walk was held in Malvern, and prior to that at Entergy Park in Hot Springs.

Registration is free, and activities will begin at 10 a.m. in the lower level of the Exchange Street Parking Plaza. Activities will include live music by Ricko Donavan and Laura Lee Williard, face painting, bookmark-making, memory bead pins and a memory quilt with squares to write messages to loved ones lost to suicide. The walk will begin at 11 a.m. While there is no registration fee, the foundation encourages donations in order to reach its $8,000 goal.

Throughout the month, there will also be messages on social media related to National Suicide Prevention Week using the hashtag #RealConvo.

For information and individual or team registration, visit https://afsp.org/hotsprings.

In observance of National Suicide Prevention Month, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System is highlighting its #BeThere campaign "by encouraging community leaders, colleagues, and veterans' families and friends to help prevent suicide by showing support" for veterans that may be struggling with suicidal ideation, the organization said in a news release.

More than 6,000 of the 20 million veterans in the U.S. die by suicide each year, the release said.

The organization encouraged people to show veterans support, and suggested cooking them dinner, texting them to check in, or having open conversations.

Veterans in crisis or coping with suicidal ideation can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support, 24/7, at 800-273-8255, then by dialing 1, or texting 838255. Online chatting is available at https://VeteransCrisisLine.net/chat.

Local on 09/11/2019

Print Headline: Local groups observe National Suicide Prevention Week, Month

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