Sui­cide pre­ven­tion walk held at Heritage Cen­ter

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

CH­ESTER — More than 150 peo­ple gath­ered at the Ch­e­sa­peake Heritage and Visi­tor Cen­ter at the Kent Nar­rows on Satur­day evening, Sept. 17, in sup­port of those af­fected by sui­cide as well as a com­mon goal of eras­ing the stigma sur­round­ing men­tal health dis­eases. With or­ga­ni­za­tion booths, a silent auc­tion and a DJ play­ing mu­sic across the lawn of the prop­erty, peo­ple waited for the start of the third an­nual Out of the Dark­ness walk.

Beads of white, red, gold, or­ange, pur­ple, sil­ver, green, blue and teal were worn around the necks of par­tic­i­pants of the 3-mile long walk, each color rep­re­sent­ing a dif­fer­ent rea­son for why they were walk­ing. Red meant the loss of a spouse or part­ner, or­ange the loss of a sib­ling and green to sig­nify a per­son strug­gling with men­tal ill­ness or hav­ing at­tempted sui­cide.

Ed­die “The HIT­Man” Hitt, DJ for the event, played songs of hope be­fore the walk­ers be­gan their jour­ney along the Cross Is­land Trail and back. Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion, host of the com­mu­nity walk, Ch­e­sa­peake Voy­agers Inc. Well­ness and Re­cov­ery Cen­ter, and the East­ern Shore Cri­sis Re­sponse Ser­vices were a few of the or­ga­ni­za­tions hand­ing out in­for­ma­tion be­fore and af­ter the walk.

Prior to the walk­ers head­ing down the road to pick up the trail, Pa­tri­cia Kotzen, a mem­ber of the Mary­land chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion, spoke to the par­tic­i­pants about the im­por­tance of com­mu­nity walks and gath­er­ings.

“I re­ally be­lieve that we are mak­ing strides,” Kotzen said. “...I think that we are start­ing to cre­ate a cul­ture that’s smart about men­tal health and about sui­cide, and this doesn’t hap­pen over night.”

Kotzen said that peo­ple in­formed about men­tal health and about sui­cide know it is dis­ease just like di­a­betes or can­cer. But for the rest, she said, there is still a great stigma sur­round­ing men­tal health ill­nesses as well as with sui­cide. Kotzen said that if stig­mas were elim­i­nated her son, who com­mit­ted sui­cide in 2010, might still be here.

“We’re here to demon­strate that sui­cide is pre­ventable. It has fi­nally been deemed a pub­lic health emer­gency and we are com­ing to­gether ... to try to de­crease the stigma,” said Carol Mas­den, direc­tor of the East­ern Shore Cri­sis Re­sponse Ser­vices. “It’s a goal that I have and that our agency has that just as if some­one were to have fallen and bro­ken their arm and to have a sling on it that there would be no more stigma for that per­son with the sling on their arm than there would be for the per­son who seeks men­tal health or ad­dic­tions treat­ment.”

Kotzen said that the funds raised through the event as well as from do­na­tions, to­tal­ing about $15,000, will help fund re­search into men­tal health and sui­cide pre­ven­tion, devel­op­ing ini­tia­tives to pre­vent sui­cide and well as cre­ate aware­ness and ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives.

For those walk­ers who lost some­one to sui­cide, “your pres­ence here hon­ors the mem­ory of those that you have lost,” Kotzen said. Kotzen said it helps to look around and see all the peo­ple with the same color beads to know that they are not alone, that other peo­ple have been af­fected too.

“It im­pacts us all, whether we are 4 or 14 or 44, 84 or above,” Mas­den said. “It doesn’t mat­ter the so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus; it doesn’t mat­ter our race; it doesn’t mat­ter our re­li­gion — it can im­pact us all .... We also all can be a part of the pre­ven­tion.”

A sign posted on the lawn with sta­tis­tics from the Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol stated Queen Anne’s County has 11.86 sui­cides per year per 100,000 peo­ple. The state and na­tional av­er­ages per 100,000 peo­ple are 9.8 and 12.97, re­spec­tively.

Mas­den said the num­ber of cri­sis in­ter­ven­tion team of­fi­cers on the East­ern Shore is grow­ing. Cri­sis in­ter ven­tion teams pro­vide trained spe­cial­ists to re­spond to emer­gency calls re­gard­ing sui­cide. If some­one is call­ing law en­force­ment for some­one ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal health or ad­dic­tions cri­sis, she said, they can now ask for a CIT of­fi­cer.

“We’re here to demon­strate that sui­cide is pre­ventable,” Mas­den added.

The VFW Post 7464 of Grasonville do­nated $2,000. Kotzen said there is a high level of sui­cide among vet­er­ans in the United States.

Other spon­sors in­cluded Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Beach Club, Jim’s Lawn Ser vice, Pointshoot Pho­tog­ra­phy, Chan­nel Marker, Devito Me­chan­i­cal Ser­vices, Life Cri­sis Cen­ter Inc., It’s the Pits, Strate­gic Con­sult­ing Al­liances, Pos­i­tive Neg­a­tives Pho­tog­ra­phy, Min­ute­man Press of Kent Is­land, Mid-Shore Be­hav­ioral Health, Hitt Pro­duc­tions, LLC, and Blan­chard’s Aerial Pho­tog­ra­phy.

Learn more about the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion at www.afsp.org.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @ mike_k­ibay­times.

From left: Chrissy Pin­der, Sam Creel, Kara Clark, Lisa Burkey and Ad­di­son Pin­der, fore­front, par­tic­i­pate in the Out of the Dark­ness com­mu­nity walk held at the Ch­e­sa­peake Heritage and Visi­tor Cen­ter on Satur­day, Sept. 17.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Carol Mas­den, direc­tor of East­ern Shore Cri­sis Re­sponse, speaks to the Out of the Dark­ness com­mu­nity walk­ers on Satur­day, Sept. 17, be­fore the 3-mile walk on the Cross Is­land Trail.

Rhonda Knotts with Com­pass Re­gional Hospice, right, and Matthew Wilk­i­son give out sui­cide pre­ven­tion in­for­ma­tion dur­ing the Out of the Dark­ness com­mu­nity walk at the Ch­e­sa­peake Heritage and Visi­tor Cen­ter on Satur­day, Sept. 17.

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