|A personal walk for a meaningful cause
Kiley Hart has lost family members to suicide, and will participate in a walk in June to raise awareness for suicide prevention
Kiley Hart has embarked on a mission to raise awareness of a real issue that affects thousands each year – suicide.
The 13-year-old Lawrence E. Jones student will take a trip to San Francisco on June 9 to participate in the overnight Out of the Darkness walk.
According to data from the Association for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), a person dies by suicide every 15 minutes in the United States, which adds up to 34,000 lives each year. Also, it is estimated that an attempt is made every minute; with close to one million people attempting suicide annually.
The Out of the Darkness hosted by the AFSP throughout the year work to raise awareness about suicide prevention to the general public and fund vital research and educational programming to reduce that statistic as much as possible.
Hart said she first learned about the walks when she saw an advertisement for them on Facebook.
Upon clicking on the link taking her to the AFSP Web site, she began to gain interest in the Out of the Darkness overnight walk scheduled in June and decided it was something she wanted to do.
“I saw it, and it was a really good cause, and I don’t think people are really aware of it,” Hart said. “So I thought that signing up for it could be something that I could put it out there more.”
Hart knows first-hand suicide is a very real occurrence; she said, “A couple of my family members died by suicide, and that’s what affected me really.” Hart could not disclose the details of this tragedy, but knows all too well the impact suicide can have on those close to the person who was lost.
Among the many goals of the walk is to increase national awareness about depression and suicide so people can better recognize the warning signs and intervene. Among the warning signs listed on the AFSP Web site are depression, anxiety, a feeling of hopelessness, sleep problems, and a pessimistic outlook on life.
Hart listed alcohol and drug abuse and antisocial behaviors as the warning signs people should look for when evaluating possible suicide victims.
Also listed on the Web site is “threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die,” which even though it is explicit, people may not take it as seriously as they should. According to the AFSP, between 20 and 50 percent of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt, and informing people about warning signs is imperative in preventing such attempts.
Hart said that if she were to interact with someone who appeared to be depressed, she would be nice to them and advise them to seek professional help for their problems.
Warning signs are something everyone should keep in mind. According to WebMD, more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder.
Hart realizes suicide is not a typical topic for conversation, but feels that openly talking about what it is and how one can recognize it is one way to make a positive change.
“Just talk about it because it seems to be that people really keep it in, and they don’t talk about it as much as it really should be talked about because it is something that happens,” Hart said.
Like many other non-profit events such as this, Hart has to raise a minimum of $150 for the event. The AFSP encourages participants to start early and suggests different ways to fundraise, including sending fundraising letters to friends and family and reaching out to local media sources.
“We’ve made cards so far, and we’ve been passing around those and making fliers and just trying to get all the donations that we can because we have a certain amount of money that we have to get,” Hart said.
Hart has been preparing for the 18-mile walk physically as well by going to the gym more often. This is the first walk like this she will attempt and is really excited she will be walking for a good cause alongside her mother and her 23-year-old sister, Katy.
Although she knows her legs will be sore by the end of the walk, she said it will be well worth it because it is going to a good cause.
For more information about the Out of the Darkness Walk, go to www.outofthedarkness.org.
Anyone who would like to support Hart and her walk for suicide prevention with a donation can contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.