For the first time this fall, Toledo and Bowling Green are joining more than 100 communities across the country in sponsoring community walks aimed at bringing attention to depression and suicide prevention.
In Bowling Green, the Wood County Suicide Prevention Coalition decided to sponsor an "Out of the Darkness" walk in part because of the number of local teenagers who have committed or attempted suicide, while in Toledo the effort began with a woman whose 47-year-old brother ended his life.
Jodi Hepler said her brother's death last September put her and her family members into "overdrive of we don't want this to happen to anybody else." She came across information about "Out of the Darkness" and began recruiting relatives and friends to organize the walk, which is set for Sept. 29 in Toledo.
In Bowling Green, a similar walk is planned for Oct. 7.
"Wood County has suffered some losses with our teenagers in the last few years from committing suicide," said Wood County Health Commissioner Pamela Butler, a member of the coalition. "This became a way to get the word out and promote education and awareness on suicide and how depression and suicide go hand in hand."
From 1999 to 2006, eight people under the age of 19 died by suicide in Wood County. Last September, a 17-year-old Bowling Green High School student killed himself while two other young men attempted to do the same, in separate incidents.
Wylie Tene, spokesman for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said the "Out of the Darkness" walks grew out of a dusk-to-dawn walk held in Washington in 2002. In 2004, some 24 communities held walks and that figure has grown to more than 100 this year, he said.
The events raise money for the foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports research, education, and survivor and awareness programs, although Ms. Butler said the Wood County coalition is focusing less on fund-raising and more on consciousness-raising.
"We want it to be an opportunity for survivors and family members to come together to celebrate their family member or friends who committed suicide but also a way for them to stand up and make a difference for someone who might be contemplating suicide," she said.
Wood County officials are enlisting support from families who have been affected by suicide, campus organizations at Bowling Green State University, area high schools that have lost students to suicide, even Girl and Boy Scout organizations.
"We're concerned about our kids," Ms. Butler said.
Ms. Hepler said she hopes to raise $3,000 from the Toledo walk.
She is working with the University of Toledo to get student organizations involved as well as family members of suicide victims.
"Anyone I talk to is very behind it. I can just run into anyone, anywhere and 80 percent of the time they will know or have known somebody who tried it or succeeded at it," she said.
Information on both the Toledo and Bowling Green walks is available at www.outofthedarkness.org.
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