Walk aims to spread aware­ness, re­duce sui­cide rates

Com­mu­nity walk aims to spread aware­ness, re­duce global sui­cide rate

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By SARA NEW­MAN snew­man@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @in­dy_­com­mu­nity

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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

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.

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