This year, for the fifth year in a row, I raised money and participated in the Washington, D.C. Out of the Darkness Community Walk, an annual event held by the National Capital Area Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). I was very fortunate to learn about this organization and the work they do and every single year, I’m reminded about how much I’ve learned and grown from being part of this event.
After not being in-person for this walk last year, I remembered how much power and impact it was to be together for this year’s Out of the Darkness Walk. I can get pretty cynical about the way we talk about suicide prevention (and mental health in general) as a country, and it’s events like these that remind me of the many, many people who are being the voice for suicide prevention.
I feel so many different things when I am part of events surrounding suicide prevention. I always have trouble providing an accurate description for why these walks mean so much to me, and while I have yet to come up with the right word, I often think about the emotions I feel every year – the ones I felt this past weekend.
I feel overwhelmed. I feel sad. I feel inspired. I feel guilty. I feel hopeful. I feel pain. I feel like a smile isn’t complete without a tear in my eye. But more than all of that, I feel grateful. Grateful for the opportunity to be the voice for so many people who feel like me every single day. Grateful to be part of a community that encourages me to speak up about my challenges. Grateful that I listened to the right people at the right time. Grateful for the people who have been there and continue to be there when I stumble, who will help me get up and back on the right path on my mental health journey.
I love the metaphor the AFSP uses for these walks – walking out of the darkness. It may sound a little cliche, but it’s also extremely accurate. All of us have moments where we’re in the darkness. We have times where we feel like we will never, ever see the light again. And sometimes, unfortunately, it takes time. When I think about how far we’ve come with talking about suicide prevention in this country, I know we still have an extremely long way to go. But we’re walking. Slowly, surely, we’re walking out of the darkness and into the light. And speaking for myself, I will continue to walk and be the voice for suicide prevention, and I am so very grateful for the many, many people who join me in the right.
In case you’re interested in my fundraising for the AFSP or the work they do, feel free to check out my fundraising page for this year’s walk – you can donate until the end of 2021! Now, I want to hear from you – do you work with mental health organizations to raise awareness or funds for a certain cause? I’d love to learn more!