Frederick Out of the Darkness Walk raises awareness for suicide and mental health


courtesy of Frederick AFSP

Out of the Darkness Walk 2017 participants pose in front of banner.

by Elizabeth Anderson, Watermark Editor

On October 20, the Maryland Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will be holding their sixth annual Frederick Out of the Darkness Walk in Baker Park.

Out of the Darkness Walks have been occurring nationally since 2002. The first walk took place overnight and participants walked a total of 16 miles. This event still occurs twice a year. Community Walks like the one in Frederick have been happening since 2004, and the Maryland Chapter has 12 of these each fall. There are a total of 420 Community Walks in the United States each year.

The purpose of the Out of the Darkness Community Walk is to raise awareness for suicide and mental health on a local level. Not only to the Walks raise money, they also help educate the community, work to end the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health, and provide support for those who have struggled with their mental health or with the loss of others due to those struggles.

“We want people to know that it is okay not to be okay, and [to be able to] treat mental health like any other issue,” said Kat Olbrich, Maryland and Delaware Area Director for the AFSP. “We also want to show those who struggle with their mental health and those who lost someone to suicide that they are not alone.”

Money raised by the Walk goes to resources such as suicide and suicide prevention research and education, advocacy, and outreach for loss and healing. Education programs include Talk Saves Lives, More than Sad, It’s Real: College Students and Mental Health, and SeizetheAwkward. Advocacy and outreach includes events like the annual meeting with Annapolis and Washington, D.C. legislators to discuss improvements to mental health care, the Survivor Outreach Program, and Survivor Day.

At the first Frederick Out of the Darkness Walk, $25,000 was raised for these causes. At the last event in 2017, $83,000 was raised. The goal for the October 20 Walk is $90,000.

This event is very relevant to students and the AFSP encourages students to attend.

[You get to] see how many people are affected by suicide and mental health, to learn that one can have a good life despite mental health problems, that there is hope after you lose a loved one, and to understand that mental health is as important as your physical health and that it is okay to reach out and ask for help when you struggle,” said Olbrich.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 50% of youth ages 13-18 experience some sort of mental disorder, and approximately 20% have severe impairment. NIMH also states that suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-24, the leading cause being unintentional injury (motor vehicle crashes, falls, fires, etc.).

The most common mental illnesses in teens are anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, and eating disorders.

Class of 2020 member Alyson Sniffen said, “Attending events like [the Out of the Darkness Walk] expands on the general attitude toward mental illness. There’s a lot of stigma and stereotypes regarding people with mental illnesses, so these events can create a more inviting social space for those looking for help.”

Come to Baker Park (121 N. Bentz Street) on October 20 and support the cause! Registration starts at 8:30 AM and the walk itself is from 10:00 AM to noon. The event is free (although you can purchase items like tribute signs and t-shirts–profits benefit the AFSP). You can come by yourself, with a team, or even bring your dog if they are on a leash!

If you or a loved one needs immediate support, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.