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Community to come together for Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Walk to help save lives

Chicagoland Walk is the largest suicide prevention event in the US


Community to come together for Out of the Darkness (OOTD) Chicagoland Walk to help save lives

On September 14, a community of people from across the region will come together for the largest suicide prevention event in the country: the Out of the Darkness (OOTD) Chicagoland Walk. This annual event helps prevent suicide as well as bring hope to those affected by suicide. Sponsored by the Illinois Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the three-mile walk starts at Montrose Harbor and runs from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm on September 14, 2024.


The Chicagoland Walk is one of hundreds held in cities throughout the country. Since 2004, these events give people the courage to open up about their own connections to the cause and provide a platform to create a culture that's smarter about mental health. The event features a mental health services tent, education outreach, a powerful Why We Walk Wall that honours those lost to suicide, and honour beads that signify how suicide has touched each participant.


Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for all ages. In 2021, suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 20-24, the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 10-19, and the 4th leading cause of death for ages 35-44. In Illinois, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for ages 10-34 and 6th leading cause for ages 35-54.


"In my eleventh year of volunteering, I continue to be deeply touched by the profound impact AFSP has on those affected by suicide," said Liz Catalano, volunteer with AFSP-IL and The OOTD Chicagoland Walk. "When I volunteer, I am granted the opportunity to forge connections with strangers who eventually become like family. At the annual Out of the Darkness Walk, we exchange stories, laughter, embraces, and tears. Being part of this remarkable event has not only aided me in my personal struggles but also nurtured my growth along my own journey." 


Participants can sign up as individuals or as a team. AFSP-Illinois hopes to raise $920,000 or more this year, which is invested in life-saving research, education, advocacy, and support for those impacted by suicide.


"As someone who has struggled with my own mental health and seen those I love struggle, the Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Walk is a wonderful opportunity to heal, advocate for change and raise essential funds for suicide prevention," said Maggy Kucera, volunteer lead, OOTD Chicagoland Walk"I volunteer to bring hope and healing to this incredible community." 


Nationally, nine in ten individuals who die by suicide were living with a diagnosable mental health condition at the time of their death, with these conditions often being undiagnosed or untreated. As a leading cause of death, suicide is a public health problem, but can be prevented through education and advocacy. Research shows that there is no single cause for suicide, and suicide risk increases when several health factors and life stressors converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. People can learn the warning signs at afsp.org/signs.


"Twenty years ago, my cousin Mark died by suicide and I went searching for answers. I found the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and I found comfort and hope," said Phil Martinez, OOTD Chicagoland Walk Chair and chair of AFSP-IL. "Nothing could erase the pain of the loss we all felt. But that comfort and hope was something that I could share with my family and loved ones. I volunteered for the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk so I could help bring that same comfort and hope to other families and friends of loved ones who died by suicide." 


AFSP and its Illinois Chapter are dedicated to improved research, education, and advocacy. Through its statewide network of volunteers, AFSP Illinois offers prevention education programs that emphasize the importance of research-proven self-care techniques as well as the value of engaging professional support.


About the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to individuals affected by suicide. The organization creates a culture that is smart regarding mental health through educational programs, advocation for suicide prevention, and providing support for those affected by suicide. All donations go towards these efforts with the goal to greatly reduce the national suicide rate.


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