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10.29.2013

Out of the Darkness Walk Sheds Light on Suicide Prevention

Hundreds of people who had lost a friend, a relative or a colleague to suicide joined on the Coral Gables campus Sunday morning for the Out of the Darkness walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The goals of the walk, one of many held around the country, are to raise awareness of suicide and to strengthen care and other efforts to prevent it. There will be more than 40,000 suicides in the U.S. this year, said Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and President of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Florida Southeast Chapter. “There is no health without mental health,” Nemeroff said.

He assured the crowd that UM research into the genetic components of suicide risk has strong support from Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, and CEO of UHealth. “We have a Dean who really cares about mental health,” Nemeroff said in introducing him to the crowd.

“We want these deaths to stop,” Goldschmidt said. “Suicide is an event that has affected us in a way we cannot ignore. We must get over the stigma and increase access to mental health care.”

The Dean paid tribute to Richard A. Iacino, his former Chief of Staff whose memory inspired the Miller School’s “Team Iacino,” and to the researchers who are working to understand mental illness and develop more effective treatments. “Our discoveries will make suicide a thing of the past,” Goldschmidt said.

James Allen of the Miami-Dade County attorney’s office, co-chair of the Out of the Darkness walk, read a proclamation on behalf of County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and the Board of County Commissioners declaring Sunday Suicide Prevention Day in Miami-Dade County. The city of Coral Gables also made a proclamation supporting the walk.

Paul M. Russo, FACHE, director of the Miami VA Healthcare System, said many of the troops coming home after 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan need mental health treatment. He applauded the VA’s work with the Miller School of Medicine to provide that treatment and better understand the disorders suffered by veterans.

You can still contribute to the work of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; $10 automatic donations can be made by texting AFSP Miami to 85944 and replying yes when prompted.

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