Springfield to hold Teenage Suicide Awareness Walk

By Andrea Lee

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

In the United States, a person dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes. With suicide affecting more and more lives each year, efforts to increase awareness are increasing in order to help educate children, teenagers and adults about the problem.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) holds Out of the Darkness Community Walks every year to raise suicide awareness. On Sunday, Springfield will host its 13th annual Out of the Darkness walk for Western Massachusetts.

At 8:30 a.m., walkers will congregate at the MassMutual Center in Springfield to register, hear the Mayor and other guests speak and eventually take the scenic route of the River Walk, which is 3-5 miles.

This annual event has increased participation over the last few years. According to Patricia Pupek, the volunteer chairperson of the fundraiser for the fifth year in a row, the walk went from having 400 participants in her first year to having 2,500 in 2012. Last year, the walk raised over $100,000. While there is no fee to register, many participants either solicit donations or give donations themselves to support the cause.

The main purpose of the walk is to raise awareness for teenage suicide and to give the community an opportunity for people to come together and support each other.

“Our message is that people with mental health issues can get assistance. We don’t need to have any losses by suicide. It is a completely preventable problem,” Pupek said.

The money raised from the fundraiser is divided equally between two different causes, both rallying to prevent suicide. Half the money goes directly back into the local community to support certain programs, according to Pupek. One of these several programs involves an educational film called “More Than Sad: Teen Depression,” which local high schools show to educate both the students and teachers about teen depression.

The other half of the funds goes to national help for research, advocacy and training to provide other educational resources for suicide prevention.

While Pupek encourages those interested to register for the walk online, people can also just show up on Sunday and register. Pupek has high hopes for the walk on Sept. 29.

“I’d like to see over 2,500 walkers and I’d like to see us break last year’s funds of $100,000,” she said. “Last year was phenomenal and I hope to exceed that this year.”

Andrea Lee can be reached at [email protected]