The Out of the Darkness walk, held at Town Green Park in The Woodlands Nov. 2, is through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This was the 16th year for the walk in The Woodlands.
Two-thousand people registered for this year’s walk for suicide prevention, according to Cammy Hazim, area director for the Southeast Texas Chapter of AFSP.
“It’s the second leading cause of death for young people age 15 to 34 all over the U.S.,” Hazim said. “Here in Texas, every two hours, a Texan dies by suicide, so that number actually increased, last year it was every three hours. It’s a huge problem.”
Hazim said the Out of the Darkness walks really work to raise awareness about suicide.
“What we like to tell people is that just like there are risk factors for heart attacks or strokes, there are risk factors for suicide,” Hazim said. “If we can teach people what those are, we can save lives.”
Hazim said the walks also help start the conversation and hopefully end the stigma around suicide and mental health.
Montgomery County Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack, who gave closing remarks at the walk and attends the event every year, said it’s a record year for the walk, with over 2,200 people who registered to participate.
“As a community, we need to have that conversation about suicide, and it’s so awesome to see everybody out here supporting the survivors of suicide, the families affected by suicide,” Judge Mack said. “In addition, there are the groups out here providing resources and information about what you can do when you’re in crisis.”
Mack said it is mainly about getting to that point where it is okay to say, “I’m not okay,” and ask for help.
Mack said suicide has become a growing problem in Montgomery County, and that’s one of the reasons the Behavior Health and Suicide Prevention Task Force was created in the County. The Task Force participated in Saturday’s walk.
“In Montgomery County, the number of suicides has doubled just in the last 10 years, but even more disturbing, not only the people who die by suicide, suicide attempts have tripled,” Mack said. “One of my duties as a justice of the peace is I’m also the coroner, so I get to be there with the families when they get this terrible news [that] somebody has made a permanent decision for a temporary situation.”
Alicia Marroquin participated in the walk to honor her brother, Juan Vargas, who died by suicide three years ago. It was the first year for Marroquin and her family to take part in the walk.
“It’s been fabulous, it’s helped us heal,” Marroquin said. “It’s helped to be able to listen to stories, being able to meet other people, joining with their experience. It’s overwhelming, but at the same time it’s truly healing, and you just understand that you’re not the only person out there that’s going through this.”
Linda Arnold displayed the Life Keeper Memory Quilt, a program through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The Quilt displays faces of those who have lost their lives to suicide. Arnold lost her son to suicide.
Arnold has taken the Memory Quilt to different places.
“I took it to an overnight walk in San Francisco, which is the longest destination, and my son lived there,” Arnold said.
Representatives of the organization “Cassidy Joined for Hope,” located in The Woodlands, were on hand at the walk.
“We focus on teen suicide prevention,” said Tracey Bieser, board secretary for Cassidy Joined for Hope. “Kim and Judd Hess, who are the president and vice president of the Foundation, lost their daughter Cassidy to suicide in 2015. We, along with them and the kids, put this together to focus on prevention, hope and awareness in the schools. We now have seven school clubs in some of the local high schools and three in Austin, where the kids spread prevention, hope and awareness.”
Cassidy Joined for Hope also had their “Light Board” on display at Saturday’s walk.
“We always spread a message of hope, so people can come and write a message of hope on the light board and put it up for everyone to see, that there’s always light, “ Bieser said.