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Suicide prevention walk set for Saturday

October 13, 2018

HUNTINGTON — Suicide ranks as the 10th leading cause of death both nationwide and in West Virginia, which in 2016 saw 362 of its citizens take their own lives.

It’s a topic — though undoubtedly widespread enough to warrant a thorough conversation — that remains one of the last taboos in the mental health realm.

But on Saturday, Oct. 13, hundreds are expected to gather in Huntington to shed light on the issue of suicide and its prevention as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-West Virginia hosts its inaugural Out of the Darkness Community Walk from 4 to 7 p.m. beginning at the Ritter Park fountain.

“Suicide has been labeled taboo and people don’t want to talk about it, so we’re bringing it to light that we need to discuss it, that it is preventable and that resources are available,” said Connie McClanahan, walk chairwoman.

Proceeds from the walk benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which organizes six similar walks across West Virginia, but never one in the Huntington area.

“There’s always been a need for it here,” McClanahan said. “And there’s only six other walks in the whole state.”

Though still in its first year, 178 participants have already preregistered for the Huntington walk as of Thursday.

“This is my first walk, and I’ve been overwhelmed with the response of the community,” McClanahan said. “It’s all been positive. We’re looking forward to a wonderful turnout for our first event.”

Registration begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Ritter Park fountain.

Preregistration can be made at www.AFSP.org/HuntingtonWV.

Suicide is not an issue limited to one stripe of person, and can manifest for a variety of reasons. Feelings of loneliness and hopelessness can sometimes cause those battling substance use disorder to intentionally overdose, McClanahan noted. Veterans may be gripped with post-traumatic stress disorder anxiety. Schoolaged children and young adults may struggle with bullying and broken home lives.

“It doesn’t just affect one kind of person,” McClanahan said. “Anybody and everybody are susceptible.”

The Huntington walk is one of more than 550 Out of the Darkness walks held nationwide in 2018, expected to attract more than 300,000 participants. Last year, the walks raised a combined more than $21 million for suicide prevention, according to the AFSP.

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