Even though I have been working from home for the past seven months and only seen a handful of people in-person during that time, I’ve still be able to participate in virtual events throughout this pandemic. One date that’s circled on my calendar every year is the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, an annual event that’s hosted in communities across the nation by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Things looked a little different this year, but a big thing remained clear: suicide prevention has always been an important issue and no matter how it looks, there are so many people who continue to do whatever they can in this work.
This year, the Out of the Darkness Walk was re-imagined as an Out of the Darkness Experience. There was a live-stream to the event, and we were encouraged to walk in our own communities to spread awareness about suicide prevention and walk proudly for this cause. As we walked through the neighborhood, I felt a little down, but I dug myself out of that hole. Part of what makes these experiences special is seeing hundreds of people come together for the walk. Seeing that many people can be empowering, and for a community that often feels like they are all alone, it is very comforting.
I knew that would be a challenge this year, so I decided to focus on some other positives about this year, and this different experience. Sometimes being downtown for the walk can be overly stimulating, and walking in a quieter neighborhood allowed me to reflect and focus on the work I’ve been doing. And while I didn’t walk with hundreds of people, seeing them all post on social media and register reminded me that we were only alone physically. By walking all at the same time, we were spreading awareness throughout the area, and that empowered and emboldened me to hold a sign, wear my shirt proudly, and make sure we were seen.
This is the fourth year I’ve done this walk, and I grow stronger and more empowered every year (in fact, this year I’ve created my most ambitious goal ever – you can donate here until December 31st!). I’ve learned that regardless of what brings people here, there is something that binds us all: building a world that fights as hard as we can against suicide, with a team of mental health warriors waking up every day for the next challenge.