Baden walk highlights suicide awareness
More than 300 march in first annual fundraiser
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.
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.
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.