Out of the Darkness Walk Sheds Light on Suicide Awareness

A record number of University of Miami and Miller School of Medicine students and employees came together recently for the Out of the Darkness Walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Walkers joined to remember friends, family members, and colleagues they had lost, and to help strengthen efforts to prevent suicide.

The walk took place on Sunday, October 11, beginning at the Stanford Rock before moving throughout the Coral Gables campus. Jill Harrington, the Florida Southeast & Florida Southwest Chapters Area Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, estimated close to 1,050 people took part, the largest turnout to date.

“We’ve been consistently trying to get the message out,” Harrington said. “I think the University of Miami and the Miller School, in particular, do a really great job to try and erase the stigma of suicide and allow people to talk about mental illness in a safe environment.”

Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and CEO of UHealth, welcomed and thanked the participants, including students, UM employees, and residents from South Florida communities. Some walked as part of a team. Others wore T-shirts with the photo of a loved one or friend who committed suicide.

“Our goal must be to eradicate depression and suicide from Planet Earth,” said Goldschmidt. “We can do that together.”

“It was wonderful to see a record turnout of walkers for the Out of the Darkness walk. The sad truth is that suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, currently 10th, with a person dying by suicide every 12.8 minutes,” said Charles B. Nemeroff, Chair of the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and a member of the national Board of Directors of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “It is the only top 10 cause of death that is increasing. Raising awareness of the problem and talking about the warning signs is a good first step in addressing the problem of suicide. We must learn more about the psychological and biological risk factors for suicide. The Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is well-positioned to diagnose and treat depression, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric illnesses that are associated with suicidal thoughts or actions. The key to prevention is recognizing the warning signs and seeking help.”

Several organizations were also on hand to help raise awareness about suicide prevention, treatment options, and support groups for families. There was also a memory quilt and a butterfly release as a remembrance of those who died by suicide.

Harrington said the walk was one of 375 Out of the Darkness Community Walks taking place nationwide. She estimates the UM walk raised close to $52,000 and Team UHealth led the way with close to $9,000.

All money raised is used to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate public policy and support survivors of suicide loss.

For more information, or to make a donation online, click here.

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