CATSKILL — Hundreds of community members are expected to gather to raise awareness about a serious but seldom talked about topic.
They will replace words with actions at the annual Columbia-Greene Out of the Darkness walk Saturday in Catskill.
September is National Suicide Awareness Month. For every person who takes his or her own life each year, another 280 people entertain thoughts of suicide and about 60 attempt it, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
The foundation organizes Out of the Darkness walks in communities throughout the country to shed light on these alarming statistics and to educate people about they can do to help.
Saturday’s walk will begin at 11 a.m. at Dutchman’s Landing.
Marc Clark, chairman of the Columbia-Greene walk, started out coming to the walk as a participant, he said.
“I struggled with suicidal thoughts as a child in middle school,” Clark said.
Clark went into recovery due to addiction and became involved with Rock Solid Church, he said.
“I came out of the darkness myself,” Clark said. “I got clean and sober and discovered I had a purpose — to give people hope.”
This is Clark’s third year as chairman.
So far 97 participants have signed up for the 1.4-mile walk.
“We are halfway to our goal,” he said.
The event has raised over $7,000 on the way to a $14,000 goal.
Last year the event raised $17,000, Clark said.
“We exceeded our goal of $12,000 and it was the highest we ever raised,” he said.
Village President Vincent Seeley is pleased to see the event return to the village.
“The village of Catskill is honored to again host the Out of the Darkness Walk,” he said. “In one way or another, all of our lives have been affected by suicide and mental illness. We believe the walk achieves several objectives, quite possibly the most important being suicide prevention and awareness.
“Sharing stories of how suicide has affected people’s lives allows us to advocate for mental health support and policies in our community,” Seeley said. “There is science behind mental illness that is underfunded and unappreciated. We need to change that viewpoint. The walk allows us to continue the conversation and ultimately save lives.”
Assemblyman Chris Tague, R-102, who is scheduled to speak at the event, favors of more discussion about the topic, he said.
“I am always very passionate about supporting these kinds of events,” he said. “Mental health in this country is very misunderstood and not discussed nearly enough. I strongly advocate for communities to open up the discussion to improve both the public’s understanding of mental health issues and the treatment options available for those struggling under these illnesses. It’s by communities banding together through events like Out of the Darkness that we can change our culture’s view of mental illness.”
A unique part of the walk is the ribbon-tying ceremony.
“The ribbon-tying ceremony represents people we lost to suicide or people who are struggling with suicide,” Clark said. “Everyone acknowledges their part in the day by choosing their color.”
White represents the loss of a child, red for loss of spouse, gold for loss of parents, orange for loss of siblings, purple for loss of a relative or friend, silver for loss of first responder/military, green for a personal struggle or attempt, teal for supporting someone who struggles or has attempted suicide and blue for supporting suicide prevention.
Walkers who raise $150 receive an Out of the Darkness t-shirt.
“We have 13 organizations that will be tabling,” Clark said.
Refreshments will also be available, Clark said.