The reasons people from Hudson County are planning to walk from June 4 to June 5 for the “Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk” in New York City are as varied as the people themselves.
More than 2,000 people from throughout New York and New Jersey are expected to take the 18-mile sunset-to-sunrise walk to help raise awareness about suicide prevention.
This event is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which seeks to raise funds to continue its educational efforts.
Everybody has their own story about their own bout with depression, or watching someone close who slipped over the edge, or even someone a person wanted to help but could not.
Many of the participants walk because they suffer, or have a friend or family member who suffers with a mood disorder, or because they have lost someone they love to suicide.
Will Eversten of Jersey City is walking because five years ago, he attempted suicide. He has bipolar disorder and is currently getting treatment and doing much better.
“Yes, suicide can be prevented.” -- Robert Gebbia
“Ever since my dad’s death, I have felt a responsibility to work towards ending the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness, as well as to help others like me who have been personally affected by suicide,” she said.
Tracy Prontnicki is from Bayonne and is walking in memory of her father, Christopher Wohltman. It will be 18 years this June since he died by suicide. Her goal is get the information out there and get people to start talking about suicide.
Victoria Grippe is from Jersey City, and is moving to Hoboken shortly. She is walking in memory of her Uncle Nick, who battled with depression for many years. She is walking because she wants to honor her uncle and to bring much needed awareness to suicide.
“My uncle committed suicide two years ago,” she said, “I was teaching in Thailand and I was unable to attend his funeral. It really bothered me. I felt a lot of grief. We were very close. I knew he was not happy, but I never believed that this could happen.”
She said she heard about the walk and how it promoted awareness, and she went to find out more.
“I guess I’m doing this to find some closure,” she said.
Part of this is to help people get the help they need. She said they shouldn’t feel embarrassed by these feelings, and that she wanted to help this organization get the tools to prevent this kind of thing from happening to other people.
A national problem and a leading cause of death in N.J.
Suicide is a serious national health problem that cuts across all ages and demographics. Each year, close to one million people make a suicide attempt and more than 34,000 die by suicide in the U.S. alone. It is the fourth leading cause of death among adults 18 to 65 and the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults. Military personnel and veterans are also at increased risk. A recent U.S. Army report confirmed a total of 343 suicides among active-duty, Army Reserve, and National Guard soldiers in 2010, nearly one suicide per day.
In New Jersey, suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth and young adults (15-34). Suicide is also the eighth leading cause of death for New Jersey residents in their middle years (45-54). Recent teen suicides made national headlines, but the walk is a chance to report about residents taking action to help prevent further tragic deaths.
“Suicide is a very complex issue and one that is often surrounded by stigma and misconceptions. It is important for the public to know that more than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have an underlying psychiatric disorder, most often depression, at the time of their death,” said Dr. Paula Clayton, medical director for AFSP. “Early recognition and vigorous treatment of depression are the best ways to prevent suicide.”
According to the foundation, close to one million people will make a suicide attempt and more than 34,500 will die by suicide in the U.S. this year alone.
“Yes, suicide can be prevented,” said Robert Gebbia, executive director for the AFSP. “The bottom line is that the best way to prevent suicide is through the early recognition and treatment of the mental illnesses, such as depression and substance abuse, which can lead to suicide. Unfortunately, stigma about mental illness and suicide and also about seeking help keeps people from getting the treatment they need. The Overnight is about eliminating that stigma.”
Funds raised from The Overnight walk will be used to finance scientific research, education and prevention programs, advocacy initiatives, and outreach programs directed toward those needing support after a suicide.
For more information, check out www.theovernight.org.