When I decided to take part in an Out of the Darkness Community Walk (put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) this past Saturday, I was pretty nervous. I knew there would be people who had lost loved ones to suicide, which is an extremely difficult situation that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. What I didn’t know is if there would be people there who’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts in their lives – like me.
As I walked down the National Mall toward the Lincoln Memorial, where the walk began, I was met with a sight that made me tear up instantly. Hundreds of people were milling around at registration, at the booths organizations had set up or were just talking with each other before the walk began. The number of people reflected not only how many people have been affected by suicide, but how many people were willing to fight against suicide even after someone had been taken from them.
I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts for most of (if not all of) my adult life. At this point, it’s just something that’s a part of me, no different than all the other baggage I carry around every day. But something about this walk changed the way I view myself. See, this year the AFSP decided to do something new: honor beads. People were given beads based on their experience. These colors showed each person’s connection to the cause, and it was a wonderful way to bring people together to show them that they’re not alone. I wore green beads, which represented having a personal struggle with suicide or mental illness. And I was honestly very afraid that I would be the only one wearing green beads.
Instead, I saw hundreds of people wearing green beads just like me. It was a very strange feeling because while I was cheered up that I wasn’t alone, my heart broke for all those who deal with suicidal thoughts – or even attempts. In a way, that was a microcosm of my day. One of the biggest problems in mental health today is this feeling that no one else is going through what you’re going through. Even when you know it’s not true, those thoughts are still prevalent and can affect everything you do. Being surrounded by so many other people affected by suicide, your heart can’t help but break for these people who have lost their love ones to suicide.
But it also gave me hope at the amazing response to tragedy. It gave me hope that even though darkness can hit all of us at one time or another, the light is still going to shine through. I’ve never been more simultaneously happy and sad than I was on Saturday, but I ended the day feeling full of hope and strength. I hope to continue the fight against suicide in as many ways as I can, and Saturday was a very good start.
There’s plenty of different ways to fight suicide. To learn more you can check out afsp.org