Almost everyone has lost a loved one or friend to suicide. They often wonder how to preserve their memory and help prevent suicide so others do not have to go through the same experience. One of the ways this can be done is by participating in an Out of the Darkness Walk.
On October 4, over 1,000 people gathered to raise awareness for suicide prevention through the Milwaukee Out of the Darkness Walk, located in Humboldt Park in Bay View. The Out of the Darkness Walks are fundraisers for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP.)
The opening ceremony began at 11 a.m. with the opening welcome announced by Gena L. Orlando, Milwaukee Out of the Darkness chairperson. She stated that according to AFSP, one person dies of suicide every 12.8 minutes in the United States, totaling to approximately 112 Americans every day. She also stressed that the conversations about ending suicide should not stop after the walk; we need to continue to talk about the importance of prevention.
Next an update about the Wisconsin AFSP was given from Jessica Borkowski, Founder of the Wisconsin chapter of AFSP, about the goals of the AFSP. These include funding research, advocating for the cause, creating education programs and supporting survivors.
Monica Cail, guest speaker, then gave a heartfelt speech about her experiences with depression and her daughter’s attempted suicide that changed her life. She revealed that she views anyone who has lived through an experience as an expert. Throughout her speech she left the group to ponder the phase, “If not now, when? If not you, who?” inspiring people to take action now.
Finally the ceremony ended with an honor bead ceremony. All the participants of the walk received different colored beads corresponding with their relationship with whom they lost through suicide. White symbolized loss of child, red loss of spouse or partner, gold loss of parent, orange loss of sibling, purple loss of relative or friend, silver loss of first responder or military personal, green personals struggle or attempt, blue supporting prevention and teal a friend or family member who struggles. During the honor bead ceremony a person that represented each color stood up on stage and emotional stories were shared about their lost loved ones. Then they released balloons that corresponded with their color beads of the person they had lost. It ended with touching moment of silence for those that had passed.
Following the ceremony the walk began, with everyone walking around the park finishing at the lagoon. Where they could throw a rose in the water to remember their loved ones.
The walk included many ways for people to remember their loved ones realizing that one way will not work for all people. There were signs that people filled in and wore that said, “I’m walking for ____.” People could also design a flag to carry with them, in memory of a person or for the cause. There was also a banner of puzzle pieces that framed the bottom of the stage that people decorated in honor of their loved one.
The participants of the walk were a diverse group of people ranging for small children to elderly of every race and social background. Many dogs also participated in the walk. Despite the diversity of the people they were all able to connect and come together for the common cause.
Overall, the walk created an emotional experience where people of all backgrounds could connect and remember their loved ones well helping to prevent suicide in the future.
by Martha Dix