Locals gather to raise suicide awareness


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Several hundred people gathered at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area on Sunday for the fifth-consecutive Out of the Darkness 5K.

The Johnson County Crisis Center led the fifth-annual walk to raise suicide awareness as well as money for prevention. The walk falls under the banner of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“We had record turnout tonight and a record amount of money raised,” said Keri Neblett, the community intervention director for the Crisis Center. “I think that the momentum is building, and that more and more people are finding out about the event and are really rallying behind it.”

Neblett said 220 people registered for the event and estimated that more than 300 participated. Prior to the event, $11,000 was raised online.

“We usually bring quite a bit of money the day of the event,” Neblett said. “Our goal is $15,000, and I’m sure we’re going to make that and exceed it.”

By the time of publication, the total amount raised during the walk had yet to be determined.

The number of suicides in Iowa has risen over the past five years, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In 2010, 356 cases were reported, and 445 were reported in 2013. The rate has risen from 11.7 to 14.4 cases per 100,000 people.

According to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention statistics, two people commit suicide in the United States every 27 minutes, which adds up to more than 39,500 people a year. One person dies of suicide every 40 seconds worldwide.

The first Out-of-Darkness 5K walk in the nation occurred in August 2010, and more than 250 communities will host one this year.

Kirkwood Community College student Haley Lynch became involved in the walk after her fiancé committed suicide in 2011.

“Suicide itself, when you experience it, it’s very isolating and lonely, and I think it’s important to better to deal with the grief and start the journey of healing and to not feel alone,” Lynch said. “Coming together, you see how much of an epidemic it really is.”

Lynch said she thinks suicide is a uniquely stigmatized issue in American society.

“If someone were to die by cancer, we would be able to openly discuss that,” she said. “I want to be able to do the same with suicide. The epidemic is real, and I just want to be able to normalize that. I want people to feel like there is support for them.”

Beau Pinkham, the crisis intervention program coordinator at the Crisis Center, said the walk helps keep the suicide issue in the air.

“Personally, I just hope that it raises awareness, which is kind of a rote answer but very true,” he said. “We need to keep this in the public eye.”

He noted comedian Robin Williams’ August suicide, saying “people talked about it for two weeks, and it’s already kind of sliding away again.”

Pinkham said he wants to see locals constantly recognizing the issue.

“…Suicide is a societal issue and a community issue and we’re not going to be able to do anything about it if we don’t address it as a community,” he said.

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