Greensburg Daily News
The goal of Saturday’s Out of the Darkness Community Walk was to raise awareness and prevention of suicide and depression but it turned out to be more of a celebration of life and hope for those left behind by loss.
One might not think that an event surrounding such a dark topic would be a place to find a wellspring of light and hope, but that’s exactly what the Out of the Darkness Community Walk turned out to be.
A huge crowd was in attendance, both team members and spectators. The Greensburg High School track was filled with people out to support the fight against suicide and depression. The atmosphere was decidedly positive as survivors gathered to spread their messages of hope to others.
It was reported Monday that participants raised $12,600 and that number is still rising.
During the month of May, which happens to be Mental Health Awareness month, donations will be accepted at Just Loafin’. All the money raised will go to the local chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for education, outreach and awareness. The money will fund the making of suicide prevention tool kits for schools, help and support for survivors, and the training of individuals to help families in need.
While there were a number of teams walking in support or honor of a particular person, there were several local businesses that were in attendance to support the community as well.
A variety of speakers took turns educating the assembled participants on many different aspects of suicide and associated topics. The event opened with a warm welcome from one of the event’s organizers, Leslie Asche-Thackery. Janet Hodson then took over with an inspiring speech about finding one’s identity through God and then helping others do the same. Hodson also read the lyrics to a song by Matthew West and said a prayer before handing off the microphone to the next speaker.
Kimmie Maxwell, another of the event’s organizers, spoke about her personal struggle with losing a loved one to suicide and the endless questions she was left with in the aftermath. She said that when she realized there would never be any answers to those questions, she decided to celebrate and honor her sister-in-law’s life. Maxwell spoke about last year’s inaugural walk and how pleased she was with the massive turnout for this year. Maxwell ended her speech with the words, “We walk for those we’ve lost, those who are left behind, and all those we’ve yet to save.”
AFSP representative, Lisa Davis, spoke about the different options available to those suffering with depression or suicidal thoughts, as well as the resources available to survivors left behind after a loved one’s suicide. She also listed a variety of ways interested individuals can get involved to help the AFSP and local efforts.
Davis mentioned an AFSP project called Lifekeeper Memory Quilts. Survivors receive a packet with a square of cloth they decorate with memories of their loved one and send to the AFSP. The fabric squares are sewn together and made into quilts, which are then displayed at AFSP events as a way to remember and honor lost loved ones. Anyone interested in obtaining a packet for a quilt square may contact Lisa Davis at 317-430-5000.
Greensburg Police Lieutenant Brendan Bridges then took over to speak about the increasing problem of suicide and the experience of responding to the death of his immediate supervisor, the late GPD veteran, Larry Dance.
He encouraged anyone suffering from depression to seek help. Bridges finished with a comforting message for the Dance family. He said, “Remember, every time you see a Greensburg Police car, Larry is with each member of the police department. He lives on through the lessons he taught to the people he worked with.”
Andy Kinker spoke next about helping his wife, Christy, overcome her abusive past and the resulting suicide attempt. Kinker said that no one can make this journey alone. He encouraged anyone trying to help a loved one overcome a history of abuse and suicidal thoughts to get help and build a support network. He credited his friends and family as the reason why his wife recovered and continues to thrive. He offered, “If you or someone you know needs help, call me. I will help. We will make a support group and talk about it.” Kinker continued to say that getting the bad things out of Christy’s life and surrounding her with a great group of people was the key to her recovery. He added, “If anyone needs help, call. There are people who care. Christy has peace now and you can too. Just don’t give up, help is out there.”
North Decatur High School guidance counselor, Barb Lecher, spoke about the effects on students when a parent commits suicide and the stages of grief that the student must be allowed to go through: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Lecher emphasized the need for understanding and compassion. She advised loved ones to give the student space if they needed it, because it is common to shut people out in the wake of a parent’s suicide, but to make sure the student knew they were loved and would not be abandoned. Lecher stressed the importance of not judging or criticizing and said, “There is always hope. There is always tomorrow.” Lecher also said that the warning signs don’t apply to everyone. Sometimes, there is no warning and nothing anyone could have done. Prevention is always the goal, but it isn’t our choice, Lecher said.
Diane McKinney, a representative from Decatur County Memorial Hospital spoke about the hospital perspective on suicide and provided hard facts on the subject. McKinney reported that suicide was the leading cause of death in America, with someone ending their own life every 13 minutes. She also said that 75 to 80 percent of the deaths were men.
She listed some of the warning signs associated with suicidal behavior, but cautioned that the risk factors were just clues and having some, or even all, of the signs did not mean one was suicidal.
Carol Burr, a representative from New Directions, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, spoke about the connection between abuse and suicidal tendencies, both for the abused and the abuser. She urged anyone in a abusive situation to call New Directions for help and support.
Desiree Shaw, granddaughter to Jack Fletcher, a noted Greensburg resident who committed suicide in his 80’s last summer, closed the event with a message of hope. She said suicide didn’t always happen to the depressed. She remembers her grandfather as a bright, loving individual who had a wise answer for every problem she ever presented to him. She said that her family moves forward and remembers him as he was and how much he loved life. She ended her speech with a scripture and the advice to “put your strength with the Lord.”
The event concluded with a balloon release to honor all those lost to suicide, all those left behind to mourn their loss, and all those left yet to be led Out of the Darkness.
More photos from this event can be found at www.greensburgdailynews.smugmug.com
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004