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#StopSuicide: Annual ‘Out of the Darkness’ walk to raise awareness for suicide prevention in Shepherdstown


The Shepherdstown Chronicle

Support, awareness, education and encouragement are some of the reasons people will participate in the Out of Darkness suicide and prevention walk taking place on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. on King Street.

Preparations have been underway for a year by event organizer, Keira Cale. She has been getting sponsors, utilizing funds for awareness and education and urging teams to sign up for the walk.

The funds raised by the Out of Darkness walk largely stays in the community. Approximately 40 percent goes to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, but 60 percent is used locally for training.

Last year, $10,000 was raised and there were about 160 people in attendance. This year Cale’s goal is to raise $15,000.

Cale said thanks to funds raised from the walk last year, Shepherd University was recently able to have two “SafeTalk” sessions, which train people ages 15 and older to “raise alertness” to potentially identify individuals experiencing thoughts of suicide and link them with suicide first aid resources.

The Out of Darkness community walks take place in all 50 states and raise millions of dollars for suicide prevention programs and unite those who have been affected by suicide. One of their goals to create communities that are smart about mental health.

“Every family in America will be affected by mental health in some way,” Cale said. “It’s 1-in-4 college students who are affected by a mental health condition and 1-in-5 people in the United States. And it also depends on which community we’re talking about. Those in the LGBTQ community are 2 to 7 times more likely to die by suicide than anyone else. It’s really important as a suicide prevention advocate to really know the types of communities that you’re serving.”

Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, ADHD and sleep issues are just some of the issues plaguing college students, including some that Cale has seen during her time at Shepherd University, where she completed her undergrad degree and is currently working on her masters in counseling.

This is the third year for the Out of Darkness walk and Cale has been involved from the beginning.

“Mental health awareness and suicide prevention is just something that we’re not talking enough about. My job requires me to have a lot of difficult conversations about different people and how their identities interact with one another, but suicide and mental health is something that will affect every community and every different type of identity that we see,” Cale said. “It affects everybody in every capacity and we’re still not talking about it the way that we need to. The biggest way to make that change happen is to show up on those front lines and do what you need to do.”

The event begins with registration and check in at 4 p.m., followed by an opening ceremony, a walk to Rumsey park to plant a tree in honor of those who have died by suicide and a candle light closing ceremony.

To register, visit, or just come to the event registration at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14, on King Street.

For anyone struggling and in need of someone to talk to, text TALK to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Counselors are available 24 hours a day.

See more from The Shepherdstown Chronicle

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