Four years ago, a spike in local suicides beyond the state or national average prompted finding a way to raise awareness about it. A Greater Lycoming County Out of the Darkness walk began and has grown so much, a new location became necessary.
This year's walk will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday in Indian Park, Montoursville. Registration will be between 1 to 2 p.m.
"The more you talk about it, the more people see it," said Joe Miller, walk chairman.
CRAIG S. McKIBBEN JR./Sun-Gazette
Walkers canvass West Third Street in October 2009 during the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s first “Out of the Darkness” walk.
In the U.S., a person dies by suicide every 14 minutes, claiming more than 36,000 lives annually. It is estimated an attempt is made every minute, with close to a million people attempting suicide annually, Miller said.
The walk allows for people who have been affected by suicide to come together to talk about the experience. Some people have never admitted it to their friends or coworkers, but being with people who have been in the same situation allows them to safely talk about it.
"It's been really amazing," Miller said.
The walk has become so popular in the area that people start asking when it will be held each year.
"Awareness in the community is out there," Miller said. "It's something people look forward to. They bring groups of people and form teams."
The awareness also has grown with the help of businesses that have been asked to hang posters about the event.
" 'This is great,' " Miller said business owners have told him. " 'I'm glad you're doing this.' "
In 2010, 25 walkers hit the streets. In 2011, the number grew to 153 walkers.
This year, Miller said it is not "unreasonable" to think there could be 200 walkers. As of Monday afternoon, 43 participants already had registered.
Of the $15,000 goal, more than $6,300 has been raised.
The money raised for the event will be split between the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Lycoming County Suicide Prevention Coalition. At the foundation, the money funds research aimed at improving suicide understanding and ways to prevent it, as well as educational programs to increase prevention, notice warning signs and make aware the psychiatric illnesses that can lead to suicide.
Some of that information will be available among the tables that will be set up at the event.
Those wishing to participate can register online until noon Friday. After that, participants will need to register on the day of the event, before it starts.
Fourteen similar walks are scheduled in Pennsylvania, with 250 nationwide through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Miller said.
The walk is about a 1 1/4-mile loop within the park. Participants can choose to do one or two loops.
Participants may bring their families and pets. A pet watering station will be available, as will snacks and bottled water.
The walk will be held rain or shine, so participants should bring an umbrella or rain gear in case of inclement weather.
Online registration is recommended but not required.
For information or to register online, visit www.outofthedarkness.org.