Baden walk high­lights sui­cide aware­ness

More than 300 march in first an­nual fundraiser

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

Af­ter be­ing touched by tragedy, a Brandy­wine area com­mu­nity group is hop­ing to raise money and aware­ness of sui­cide, one of the lead­ing causes of death among teens and young adults.

Com­mu­nity group BadenStrong held its first “Out of Dark­ness” Walk Satur­day morn­ing, on World Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Day, at the Baden Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment. More than 400 peo­ple at­tended the event to ben­e­fit the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion.

“We are here to cel­e­brate life as a

whole,” or­ga­nizer Christina Kelly said as she kicked off the event. “We’re cel­e­brat­ing the lives of those we’ve lost as well as the lives of each and ev­ery one of us who are here to­day.”

The walk, which in­cluded over 300 peo­ple, went from the vol­un­teer fire depart­ment to the Baden Com­mu­nity Cen­ter, vis­it­ing the BadenStrong Me­mo­rial Gar­den be­fore re­turn­ing to the fire depart­ment.

Kelly said the orig­i­nal goal for the event was to raise $10,000, but the group ex­ceeded its goal con­sid­er­ably, rais­ing over $35,000, with the pos­si­bil­ity of ad­di­tional money be­ing raised be­fore Dec. 31.

“We are very pleased with the out­come of the walk,” Kelly said. “We can­not have been more thank­ful for all of the fam­ily, friends and neigh­bors who came out for this amaz­ing cause.”

Julie Ma­theny, Mary­land chap­ter board chair­woman for the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion, said the money raised would be used to help spread aware­ness of the men­tal health is­sue, sup­port sur­vivors of sui­cide, re­search into the causes of sui­cide and sup­port leg­is­la­tion re­lated to sui­cide pre­ven­tion and men­tal health.

“The ‘Out of Dark­ness’ as­pect comes from bring­ing the stigma out of the dark­ness, bring­ing aware­ness out of the dark­ness so that peo­ple start talk­ing about it, start cre­at­ing a cul­ture that is smart about men­tal health, so that peo­ple are aware, and aren’t afraid to speak up and speak out,” Ma­theny said.

Kelly said she hopes that events like the “Out of Dark­ness” walk will help dis­pel the stigma con­nected with men­tal health is­sues.

“If you tell some­one you’re de­pressed, or you have anx­i­ety, or you take med­i­ca­tion for men­tal health, there’s still such a neg­a­tive stigma that comes with that, and we want to break that,” Kelly said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion web­site, sui­cide is the 10th lead­ing cause of death in the United States.

An April 2016 Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion re­port found that the sui­cide rate in the United States for in­di­vid­u­als ages 10 to 74 has in­creased 24 per­cent since 1999, from 10.5 cases per 100,000 peo­ple to 13 cases per 100,000 peo­ple, with the great­est an­nual per­cent in­creases af­ter 2006.

Par­tic­i­pants in the event wore bead neck­laces with dif­fer­ent col­ors de­not­ing those who had at­tempted sui­cide, a loved one lost to sui­cide, a loved one who at­tempted sui­cide or in gen­eral sup­port of sui­cide aware­ness.

Kelly said the in­spi­ra­tion for the walk came from the loss of two young men in the com­mu­nity, Travis Richards and Mitchell Gryszkiewicz, as well as other losses over the years.

“Af­ter los­ing them, it re­ally hit us. They were young men with such prom­ise,” Kelly said.

Kelly and Mitchell’s mother, Wanda Gryszkiewicz, formed BadenStrong in 2014. The group took part in walks held in two other lo­ca­tions, but Kelly said she and oth­ers felt it was time to or­ga­nize a walk in the Baden com­mu­nity.

“We had such a huge out­pour­ing of suc­cess, so we just ran with it,” Kelly said.

Kelly said she hopes the walk will help raise aware­ness of sui­cide and men­tal health is­sues.

“Men­tal health is no dif­fer­ent than check­ing your blood pres­sure or mak­ing sure you’re not a di­a­betic or tak­ing care of any other as­pect of your phys­i­cal health. It’s just so over­looked, and we want to spread the word across the board, but par­tic­u­larly to the younger gen­er­a­tion,” Kelly said. “One thing Mitchell said was some­times life throws you a curve ball, but there’ll be a fast­ball right be­hind it, and you’re go­ing to hit it out of the park.”

More than 300 peo­ple took part in the BadenStrong first “Out of Dark­ness” walk Satur­day morn­ing, to raise money and aware­ness for sui­cide pre­ven­tion. The walk left the Baden Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment on Brandy­wine Road and pro­ceeded to the Baden Com­mu­nity Cen­ter and the BadenStrong Me­mo­rial Gar­den be­fore re­turn­ing to the Baden VFD.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Par­tic­i­pants line up prior to tak­ing part in the first BadenStrong “Out of Dark­ness” walk to raise funds and aware­ness for sui­cide pre­ven­tion Satur­day morn­ing.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Par­tic­i­pants in the first BadenStrong “Out of Dark­ness” walk for sui­cide aware­ness gather in a field next to the Baden Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment Satur­day morn­ing. More than 300 par­tic­i­pants took part in the walk.

Fam­ily mem­bers of Mitchell Gryszkiewicz, a Baden man who died by sui­cide, walk in the BadenStrong first “Out of Dark­ness” walk to raise money and aware­ness for sui­cide pre­ven­tion.

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