I am a dedicated walker. I’ve written about that many times, so you probably know that. When the weather is right (no rain, no snow, no ice or other hazards), I’m out there in the morning doing my miles. I’m a morning walker because if I don’t walk when I first get up, I’m not going to do it.
However, one of the most important walks I do happens once a year. It’s not in the morning. It’s in my local park. I don’t do it alone. It’s the annual Out of the Darkness walk to support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
My family and I have been walking together every year since 2017, which is when the when walk started in our town to honor one of our own who we lost to suicide. He was certainly not the first we lost and sadly he will not be the last, but a very important conversation was started as a result and the community has come together to address and work on the issue.
It is not a difficult walk. It’s a simple walk around the park. And it’s a beautiful sight to see all these people walking to raise awareness and funds. It is a reminder that in this life we are NOT alone.
Last year we had to walk virtually. That definitely was not what anyone wanted to do, but we did what we could. We were (and still are) in a pandemic; an isolating experience where awareness and support were (and are) very much needed. While we still need to remain somewhat physically distant (I’ve never been a fan of the term social distance), we ARE still here for each other. We WILL still support each other, just in ways different than we had before.
This year we WILL be physically walking, but not in the same way as we have before. There will be no opening ceremony. There will be no speeches. Groups have been given times to start their walk, so while there will be people, there will not be the crowds of the past. We will follow Covid-19 protocol as we walk. The important thing is that we WILL walk.
I wish I could say my little group (comprised of just my family) is walking in memory of one person. We are not. I wish I could say we only know of a handful of people who have been affected by suicide. I cannot.
What I CAN say is that I’m going to keep walking. (Hopefully with my family, but I cannot speak for them.) I will keep listening. I will keep encouraging. I will raise awareness; make resources known.
Most importantly, I will continue to shout: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Mental health is important. We ALL have issues with mental health at one time or another. (If you say you haven’t you are either lying to yourself or you are an incredibly unique individual.) No matter who you are there is someone out there who is willing to listen. There IS someone out there who will help. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I walk for those who have been lost to suicide. I walk for those who are searching for answers and seeking support. I walk because we are not and never will be alone.
(Final note: if you would like to support us the and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, you can do so here. It’s safe, it’s easy. Thank you, in advance, for your donation.)
Beth Shorten is a life-long resident of Verona. For more than six years, she has been chronicling life here on her personal site, Bfth’s Boring Blog.