Yesterday was my second year walking in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's (AFSP) annual "Out of the Darkness" community walk. While it's heartbreaking that I or anyone else would need to walk in memory of a loved one lost to suicide, I've found the whole experience to be very therapeutic, a way to honor my brother's memory while doing something constructive, in the hope of ensuring that others may be spared the same heartbreak in the future.
That said, I also hope that these walks may help to make the topic of suicide less taboo. Today's annual "Making Strides for Breast Cancer" walk had 20,000 participants; "Out of the Darkness" had between 200-300 walkers. I know for a fact that countless more Staten Islanders have been touched by suicide. Since losing my brother, it seems as though almost everywhere I go, I encounter someone who has lost a loved one this way. So my question is: why aren't these people walking? Is it because they haven't heard of the walk? Until losing my brother and finding a Survivors After Suicide support group on Staten Island, I hadn't either. Why isn't such an important cause more publicized? Are people afraid to talk about it? Are they afraid of being on the wrong end of negative gossip?
Why is suicide a topic that most people avoid, especially when it's so prevalent? According to the AFSP and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide was the eleventh-leading cause of death in 2007, the latest available data. It was the fourth-leading cause of death among adults ages 18 to 65, and the third-leading cause of death among adolescents. It seems to me as if more must be done to publicize the tragedy of suicide, rather than sensationalize it. The stigma must be removed, in order to suicide awareness and prevention.
Perhaps then, our loved ones' deaths will not have been in vain.