Recent stories about Robin Willliams’ death and the terminally ill patient who plans to end her own life on Nov. 1 have shined a light on suicide.
But the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has been working all along to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Local AFSP chapters across the nation are hosting Out of the Darkness Community Walks this fall.
Columbia’s walk on Sunday, Oct. 26, is expected to attract nearly 1,000 walkers to Riverfront Park for the 2 p.m. walk. Walkers are welcome to walk in teams or individually for any or all of the 5K distance.
This is the 10th anniversary of the first walk to be held in Columbia, and organizers will install a commemorative plaque as part of the opening ceremonies, said Helen Pridgen, SC Area Director for AFSP. The first Columbia walk actually predated the establishment of South Carolina’s AFSP chapter, which was established in 2008, Pridgen said. And in the past decade, the event has multiplied to six walks now held across the state each year.
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Gov. Nikki Haley will speak at the event; as well as AFSP vice president of development and field management Michael F. Lamma; S.C. director of the Department of Mental Health John H. Magill; and associate provost for Health Sciences at USC Dr. Meera Narasimhan.
The 360 walks across the nation this fall are expected to attract more than 100,000 walkers and raise more than $12 million for suicide prevention efforts. In addition to raising funds, the walks seek to raise awareness about depression and suicide, to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide and to provide support for those who have lost a loved one.
According to AFSP, a person dies by suicide every 13.3 minutes, claiming more than 39,500 lives each year. It is estimated that an attempt is made every minute, with close to 1 million people attempting suicide annually.
AFSP hopes to reduce the annual rate of suicide by 20 percent by 2025.
The Columbia community walk will begin at 2 p.m. at the Columbia Riverfront Park end at 4:30 p.m. The park entrance is located at the corner of Huger and Laurel streets. For those who need to register at the event, check-in time is from 1-2 p.m. Participants are also invited to bring photos of loved ones who have been lost to suicide to be added to a display board.
Find more to do in our new events calendar at events.thestate.com.
Bridget Winston, Special to The State