Walk aims to spread awareness, reduce suicide rates
Community walk aims to spread awareness, reduce global suicide rate
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 44 and under according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) but hundreds of walks held nationwide aim to spread hope and understanding those going through mental illness.
The annual Charles County/Southern Maryland Out of the Darkness Community Walk, hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Maryland Chapter, will take place 9 a.m. Sept. 10 at The Village Green Pavilion in Indian Head. The fundraising walk supports the foundation’s local and national education and advocacy programs and its goal to reduce the annual rate of suicide by 20 percent by 2025.
“We walk to raise awareness about this important issue,” Michelle Wood, Southern Maryland walk co-chair and AFSP Maryland board member, said in a statement. “Suicide touches one in five American families. We hope that by walking we save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.”
Wood said she got involved with the foundation as a way to cope after her brother died.
“I got involved because I needed to deal with my grief,” Wood said in an interview. “I wanted to help others in order to help myself.”
Wood said the ability to talk to someone who has been through similar circumstances helps her feel that she is not alone. Though she may be fine one day, she will struggle the next sometimes for unknown reasons.
“My father has been dead 45 years but something will trigger one day and bring me back there,” Sue Maskaleris, Southern Maryland walk co-chair and AFSP Maryland chairperson, echoed.
Her struggle began when she was 14-years-old. Maskaleris said she “put off” her healing for 27 years until she realized how she was being affected by her own depression. Through therapy, she was able to better understand the struggles her father went through.
“I started to see what depression does to the way you think,” Maskaleris said. “Why would a rational person come to this decision? They don’t. People don’t consciously want to die. They just want the pain to stop.”
Like 90 percent of those who die by suicide, according to AFSP, Jacqueline Hancock’s grandson was diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder at the time of his death. Demont “Manman” Charles Hancock, Jr. was diagnosed with an emotional disability not long before he died when he was 12-years-old. At the time, Jacqueline said her grandson was moving from house to house between living with his mother and herself. When she received full custody, Jacqueline said she believed Demont was afraid of moving again. She said often kept his feelings bottled up inside.
“It hurt me,” Jacqueline said of her grandson’s death. “He considered me as his mom and he and his brother were like my sons.”
Veronica Sheff, Demont’s step-mother, said he was quiet and let problems build until they exploded. Sheff also suffers from depression and had her own struggles with suicide. She was transferred to the psychiatric ward at Calvert Memorial Hospital — the closest location for psychiatric services — which she said “opened her eyes” to the world of mental illness.
Now, Sheff is in therapy and has gotten closer with her family through talking about her struggles with depression. Before, she said she was afraid to say how she felt because she thought no one understood. She said being around others who are open about their experiences is helpful for her own healing.
“This is what needs to happen, us talking here. Mental illness needs to be on the forefront like any other illness.
AFSP Regional Director for Maryland, D.C. and Virginia Ryan Newcomb, left, smiles with co-chairs Sue Maskaleris and Michelle Wood along with Mayor of Indian Head Brandon Paulin at last year’s Charles County/Southern Maryland Out of the Darkness Community Walk hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Maryland Chapter. This year’s walk will be held in Indian Head on Sept. 10.
Volunteers prepared balloons for the balloon release at last year’s Charles County/Southern Maryland Out of the Darkness Community Walk hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Maryland Chapter. This year’s walk will be in Indian Head Sept. 10.