Community comes together to stop suicide

Special to The Log
Last year’s annual Emerald Coast Out of the Darkness Community Walk was held at John Beasley Park on Okaloosa Island. [8 FIFTY PRODUCTIONS/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, yet suicide is preventable. Supporters throughout Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, and nearby communities will be participating in the sixth annual Emerald Coast Out of the Darkness Community Walk, hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Florida Panhandle Chapter, at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 3 at John Beasley Park on Okaloosa Island.

This fundraising walk supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s local and national education and advocacy programs and its goal to reduce the annual rate of suicide 20 percent by 2025.

The event is free and open to the public. Online registration and fundraising are encouraged. Participants who raise $150 or more will receive a free Out of the Darkness T-shirt. Day-of registration and check-in will begin at 9:30 a.m. with the opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. and the walk kicking off at the close of the ceremony.

Official AFSP T-shirts and merchandise will be available for sale, as well as a raffle tickets with packages from several local businesses. The Gulf will be hosting the official after party where the raffle winners will be announced and 10 percent of food and drink sales will be donated to the Florida Panhandle Chapter.

“When the community walks with us during one of our Out of the Darkness Walks, they join the effort with hundreds of thousands of people around the U.S. and beyond to raise awareness and funds that allow AFSP to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss,” said Donna Williamson, chapter chair. “Our Community Walk in Pensacola just raised $19,000, our Campus Walk at Florida State University continues to grow and be a success, and we hope to raise $30,000 at this year’s walk which will help bring our totals for this Walk over $100,000 over six years and over $250,000 across all of our events as a Chapter.”

Walk sponsors include Lamar Advertising, Leonardo DRS, Silver Sands Premium Outlets, Madison Parc Apartments, Nash FM 94.7, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, and First Service Residential.

Interested participants, walkers, and donors can visit AFSP.org/EmeraldCoast to register for the upcoming walk and learn more.

The Emerald Coast Out of the Darkness Walk is one of more than 375 Out of the Darkness Community Walks being held nationwide this year. The walks are expected to unite more than 250,000 walkers and raise millions for suicide prevention efforts.

“These walks are about turning hope into action,” said AFSP Robert Gebbia. “Suicide is a serious problem, but it’s a problem we can solve. The research has shown us how to fight suicide, and if we keep up the fight the science is only going to get better, our culture will get smarter about mental health, and we’ll be able to save more people from dying from depression and other mental health conditions.”

If you or your business is interested in becoming a sponsor, email flpanhandle@afsp.org.