Suicide is on the rise. Deaths from heart attack, stroke, and cancer are declining.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention AFSP.org is the leading non profit supporter of suicide prevention. Their administrative and fundraising costs are well below national standards. That means that more of each dollar contributed to AFSP is spent on education and research to prevent suicide to administer the foundation.
Each fall in major cities and communities across America AFSP organizes walks to raise funds and awareness to prevent suicide. This morning I participated in a walk on the Coral Gables campus of the University of Miami. Five or six years ago there were only fifty walkers. Today, there were (I’m guessing) close to two thousand!
This morning there was a hint of fall in Miami. There was a whisper of a breeze and the sun was shining as the crowd gathered at the rock aka the green aka the quad – depending on the campus. The walkers were welcomed by a host of speakers. The campus organizer, the president of the local chapter of AFSP and a psychiatrist from the VA hospital.
The chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine shared statistics and facts about suicide. The number of beds available to treat psychiatric patients within the university’s healthcare network. He spoke of the stigma associated with mental illness being the crux of the problem to why people do not seek and receive the help available when needed.
The Dean of the Miller School of Medicine mentioned the personal loss of his mother to suicide and the guilt he carries years after the tragedy. AFSP provides survivor support. [email protected] or 1.888.333.2377 tollfree.
Ronald Zaleski approached the podium barefoot sandwiched between his sign. Front and Back read,
22 Vets a Day Commit SUICIDE! thelongwalkhome.org. He walked from Boston to Santa Monica in 2011 – barefoot – to raise awareness regarding military related post traumatic stress disorder PTSD suicides. Throughout his walk he encountered family members who shared with him their painful loss and guilt.
Girl Scouts representing the spectrum of ages released butterflies after the reading of a poem. Butterflies are silent carries of secrets directly to the spirit. The poem is beautiful, I only paraphrased because my mental note of the title and author has been misplaced.
After the speakers left the podium, the walkers were led by a drum corps. One of the released butterflies alit on a guy’s cap for about 60 feet; he was thrilled. I walked a few paces behind him and his entourage. Seconds before the Monarch drifted off, I had the presence of mind to use my phone to take a picture. What secret was being carried off to the universe?
As the course snaked through the lush, tropical landscape of the campus it was not possible to see the front of the line nor the end. The 5k course meandered through breezeways between buildings and the arboretum. Passed the WWII army barracks building which has obviously been refurbished/restored since my art history class which met there.
As the course approached the finish line – back at the rock – I jotted off to the garage where my car was parked. Lifting my cap off at home and observing my sweat soaked head, I thought to myself how different fall is here in Miami than in the mid-west where I was born.
Looking over brochures I collected at information tables before the walk gave me the opportunity to digest more devastating facts of suicide among college aged students.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for the college aged population. Approximately eleven hundred college students commit suicide annually.
Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide among college age students. There are other percentages on the Fact Sheet from The Jason Foundation www.jasonfoundation.com as well as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Or 911.
Suicide is also prevalent among seniors – not college seniors – but silver seniors. Chances are we each know some one who knows some one who has been touched/effected by suicide. There is help available. To prevent suicide and for the survivors.
It was a lovely walk. No one needs to walk through depression, mental illness or addiction alone. Learn how to help when help is needed. Talk about mental health and illness and suicide prevention. Raise awareness. The more people who are aware the more readily help is achieved.
look for the Happy Trails.