Local Out of Darkness Walk set for Sept. 22

Staff Report

PARKERSBURG — Suicide Prevention Week will be observed Sept. 9-17, leading to the annual Out of Darkness Walk on Sept. 22 to raise awareness of the issue.

Resources and services are available for residents who believe they are having a mental health emergency, said Tristam Spitsnaugle, suicide prevention specialist at Westbrook Health Services. Help is available, he said.

“You do not have to be feeling suicidal to reach out to any of these resources,” he said. “These resources are available for anything that you may deem as being a crisis to you.”

Spitsnaugle said while fewer suicide attempts are made in an older population, the rate of death by suicide is higher in people age 45-54. The rate is highest in people over the age of 65 when compared to any other age range, he said.

Tyler and Calhoun counties are in the top 4 counties in West Virginia in suicide deaths per 100,000, he said. Why is unclear, but may have to do with substance abuse or the gun culture in West Virginia, Spitsnaugle said.

“It could be a lot of things,” he said.

Mental health has a stigma surrounding it, especially with a mental illness being something that is discovered in a person with “problems,” Spitsnaugle said.

“As a community we can end this stigma. If you were to break your arm, you would proceed to go to the hospital to receive a cast. With a cast being the treatment for the broken arm, mental illness should be no exception,” he said. “When we are feeling low and can’t seem to make ourselves happy again, or when we are just too stressed out, treatment for these mental health related problems should be seen as being on an equal level with having treatment for any other medical emergency.”

Among resources available are the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Suicide Prevention Text line of Text “start” to 741-741 and the Westbrook Health Services Hotline at 304 485-1725.

The Out of Darkness Walk begins at 1 p.m. Sept. 22 at Parkersburg City Park. Registration, which is free and open to the public, is at noon at the park.

Online registration closes Friday before the event. Donations will be accepted until Dec. 31.

The event ends at 4:30 p.m.

The walk raises awareness and funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for research, educational programs, advocacy for public policy and to support survivors of suicide loss.

The goal is to reduce the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025.