Many took part in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Memorial Park Saturday, Sept. 7, which aimed to reduce the stigma of talking about suicide and raising awareness about prevention. Photo by Makenzie Davis

Locals aim to prevent suicide at community walk

It was a day of prevention, a day of sharing stories and hope and a day to let everyone know they are not alone.

Hundreds of people showed their support at Lassen County’s inaugural participation in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Community Walk Saturday, Sept. 7. Together, donors, walkers and teams raised about $16,000 locally to help reduce suicide rates.

“Today is an opportunity to help those in the community who have been affected by suicide,” said Jim Dandois, who lost his son to suicide in 2015, before the large crowd Saturday.

During the walk, participants wore strings of beads, each representing a unique way one has been affected by suicide, whether they struggle with suicidal intentions themselves, or have lost loved ones and friends.

Those wearing white beads represented losing a child; red, the loss of a spouse or partner; gold, the loss of a parent; orange, the loss of a sibling; purple, the loss of a relative or friend; silver, the loss of a first responder or military personnel; green represented a personal struggle or attempt; teal was worn by those supporting someone who struggles or has attempted; and blue was worn by those supporting suicide prevention.

Prior to the walk, some people shared their stories of loved ones lost, or personal attempts made.

Veteran Bill Barnes shared about veteran suicides, which statistics says 22 vets take their lives every day.

He discussed the local group Vet-to-Vet at Lassen Aurora Network where veterans can gather with other veterans just to talk and connect with those who can relate to what they may be going through.

Suicide Prevention Committee member Terra Avilla noted this event was showing physical support for raising awareness.

“We are making a difference in suicide prevention in Lassen County,” she said. “This is real life intervention.”

Local organizations and agencies hosted booths at the event, sharing information about various resources available in the county.

During the walk, starting and ending and Memorial Park, the top fundraising team, “For Max,” lead the large crowd of people as they marched for suicide prevention.

According to Avilla, a community team will discuss how the funds raised will be spent locally.

Donations can still be made for the event.