The first annual Out of the Shadows Suicide Awareness Walk will be held on October 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the First Flight High School track in Kill Devil Hills, offering an important opportunity for the community to come together and work toward breaking the stigma and silence that often surrounds suicide and mental illness.
A collaboration between the Breaking Through Task Force, Dare County Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), Saving Lives Task Force, SMART Recovery and other dedicated community members, the event will include a keynote speaker, vendors, mental health professionals, suicide education and awareness materials, live music and food.
“We encourage community members to join us on this special day,” said DHHS Health Education & Outreach Supervisor Kelly Fleming. “Suicide affects people of all ages and has far-reaching impacts on family, friends and the community. When we come together, we can truly make a difference, support one another, and shine a light on this serious public health problem.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates increased approximately 16 percent between 2000 and 2021, with suicide claiming more than 48,000 lives in the United States during 2021 and 49,500 in 2022. Here in Dare County, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death, highlighting the importance of coming together as a community to acknowledge how suicide has impacted our lives as well as those of our family, friends and community.
“As with the Walk Against Addiction, the Out of the Shadows Walk came about due to the stigma associated with mental illness and someone taking their own life,” said Brenda Thacker of the Saving Lives Task Force. “We need to talk about suicide. According to the CDC, roughly 130 people in the United States take their lives each day and 2022 marked the highest number of suicide deaths ever recorded.”
Thacker stressed that individuals who are thinking about taking their own life should know that it is okay to ask for help and that resources are available, adding that she hopes the walk drives home the messages of “No shame, no stigma and most importantly, no judgment.”
During the event, participants will be invited to select “Honor Beads” that represent their personal connection to suicide and help to identify others with similar experiences. Different colored beads represent the loss of a child, spouse or partner, parent, sibling, relative or friend, personal struggle with suicide, etc. Participants will then be encouraged to walk around the track for each bead they have.
An Emotions Table and Mental Health First Aid Station will also be available. For more information about the event, please email email@example.com or call 252.475.5036.
(Due to the possibility of inclement weather on Oct. 14, the walk may have to be canceled. Organizers will make that decision by 5 pm on Thursday, Oct. 12 and post the announcement on www.breakthestigmaobx.com/shadows and on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/breakthestigmaobx/.)