‘Out of the Darkness’ walk kicks off Suicide Prevention Week
HIGHLANDS RANCH – Hundreds of people marked the beginning of National Suicide Prevention Week by participating in the fourth annual South Metro ‘Out of the Darkness’ Community Walk. Highlands Ranch High School (HRHS) hosted the event on Saturday September 7, which aims to both share information in the community about suicide prevention and to remember the lives of those who taken their lives by suicide.
While final numbers are not yet in, Sheri Cole, co-chair of the South Metro Community Walk and President of the Colorado chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) said the event’s success was due to a lot of preparation.
“It’s pretty much year-round planning. We have teachers and students that volunteer and people that come from states all over the country,” Cole said.
Over the past four years the event has raised nearly a half a million dollars to benefit programs like Sources of Strength, a peer relation program piloted at HRHS.
Sources of Strength is a peer leadership-training program that utilizes the power of a peer network to provide protective factors for students.
“It’s not so much the money aspect as it is the awareness,” asserted Cole. “So much of why I got involved was because of education. It’s such a taboo subject in our society but I think we’re starting to turn the tide on that.”
Cole first got involved with the AFSP after she lost her son to suicide four years ago.
“I knew my sons friends were struggling and that some of them potentially knew after the fact that he had suicidal ideation but didn’t know where to go necessarily or what to do,” she explained.
Once she learned more about the AFSP and the educational resources it provides—like Sources of Strength and More than Sad that are both aimed at 15-19 year olds—she immediately linked up with the organization and eventually started the AFSP Colorado chapter.
Cole began working with HRHS and the school district to implement the programs and assets AFSP provides.
Also, Cole is pleased with the support she has received from the community. Both the Douglas County Suicide Prevention Alliance and the Youth Education and Safety in Schools (YESS) program, developed by the sheriff’s office, joined forces with the AFSP Colorado chapter to further the advocacy of the cause.
“We have helped fund multiple gate keepers trainings such as ASIST and safeTALK (programs by Living Works) as well. That would not necessarily just be for the school district, but the community at large for people to take a course,” Cole pointed out.
“The collaboration and direct partnerships between the organizations has really been amazing, and it’s what helps make the walk successful too,” she said.
‘Out of the Darkness’ Community, Campus, and Overnight Walks are organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) as their premiere event to raise funds aimed at improving the understanding and prevention of suicide.
“It’s estimated that 80 percent of us in our lifetime will be affected by suicide loss. So the need for more awareness is there, the numbers have increased—we all have the opportunity to do more and make a difference to prevent suicide through research, education, and advocacy,” Cole said.
AFSP Colorado chapter will be accepting donations through the end of the 2013 year. To help the AFSP and Douglas County/South Metro community reach the 2013 fundraising goal of $140,000, please visit http://afsp.donordrive.com.