Community Walks to Raise Suicide Prevention
"Suicide is estimated to occur every 18 minutes in the U.S.," and "suicide is the third leading cause of death from ages 15-24" are some of the few statistics on posters that people held Saturday, Sept. 13, at Santa Monica City Hall for the Out of the Darkness Community Walk.
The walk is a place where those affected by suicide share the facts about it with the community and raise money for programs to prevent others from taking their own lives.
All contributions to the cause go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The AFSP is a non-profit organization that researches the causes of suicide and how to best prevent it. They also reach out to those who suffer from various mood disorders and those impacted by suicide.
At the walk, booths containing information on suicide and related issues crowded the City Hall lawn, as all kinds of people went about collecting informative pamphlets and some of the free snacks that were offered.
Most people wore papers pinned to the backs of their shirts with the names of the people they were walking for.
One booth offered color-identifying beaded necklaces for the walkers to wear and show how they have been affected. Some have lost a child to suicide, some a parent, friend, or spouse, and a few walked around wearing every color necklace.
At another booth sat Mary Gonzales, mother to Suzy Gonzales, who ended her life at the young age of 19 on Mar. 23, 2003.
Suzy, however, was greatly assisted in coming to this decision, which is why her mother Mary, and father Mike, have set out to pass H.R. 940, which would "make it a federal crime to teach a particular person how to commit suicide, or provide a particular person with resources to commit suicide."
Suzy is described as a creative, fun girl who had a bright soul that shined on everyone she knew. But Suzy became depressed and she turned to an online group to share her feelings. She was met with enthusiastic encouragement to take her own life.
Beyond that, a person in this online group aided her not only to stay away from medical attention, but helped her obtain the cyanide she killed herself with.
Suzy is the online group's 14th supposed "success story," and since then the group has worked its way up to 26.
Gonzales stood somewhat solemnly behind her booth, but seemed happy to explain why the law should be passed. "People's immediate reaction is that the law will infringe on freedom of speech," she said.
"But the law would be so narrow that it would be limited to someone who gave specific directions and had intent [to convince another to commit suicide]." For more information, visit www.suzyslaw.com.
The event started at 8 a.m. with various speakers being introduced to warm up the crowd and thank them for coming. Amy Murphy, Fox News reporter who lost her husband to suicide in 2007, spoke, as well as the mayor and many other celebrities.
Mayor Richard Bloom was excited to see so many people, and said this was the best turnout for the walk in Santa Monica thus far.
He told the crowd that he too could be wearing many of those necklaces, and that he understands how important it is to promote the awareness of how suicide happens and how to prevent it.
Shortly after the mayor spoke, many celebrities were briefly introduced to show their support of the cause as well. The loud music blared as Amy Murphy helped to get the crowd stretched and ready for the five-mile walk.
The most emphasized message throughout the day was to pay attention. If you are worried about yourself or a friend, there are many resources to help. If in crisis call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).