HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- Hundreds gathered at Ditto Landing in south Huntsville Sunday afternoon in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. North Alabama's Out of the Darkness Walk is a place for people to come together to remember those lost to suicide, make connections with local resources, and raise awareness for suicide prevention.
"We have several organizations whose sole purpose is to help people become more aware of the need for suicide prevention and to provide ways to intervene if you're concerned for somebody," said Out of the Darkness Walk Committee Member, Amy Patel.
Amy Patel helps organize the Out of the Darkness Walk. She says people can be afraid to speak up even if they are concerned for someone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts.
"There's this myth that if you bring up suicide to somebody you're planting the idea in their head but the research shows that's not the case. Actually, being willing to go into that discomfort and just talk with someone and express your concerns for them can help break down barriers," said Patel.
She says having open conversations with people who you might think are contemplating suicide can help those individuals realize they have someone on their side and someone who cares for them.
"At that point, you're an ally to them and you can help them get the help that they need," said Patel.
Patel says thankfully, people are speaking up about the stigma around mental health and suicidal thoughts.
"I think some of the stigma is disappearing but it's still there. I think it's important to have events like this where people are willing to 'be the voice' and willing to speak up about suicide," says Patel.
Patel says staying silent won't make suicide go away. She says if you're struggling reach out.
"Reach out to somebody you trust. You can call the national suicide lifeline where there are trained councilors who are truly there for that purpose. There's also a text line they can contact for people who are not comfortable talking on the phone," says Patel.
Patel wants people struggling with suicidal thoughts to know they are not alone.
"Your life is important. It is worthy. And you leave people behind who will grieve forever," said Patel.
Patel says the Out of the Darkness walk provides a safe space for those grieving.
"Sometimes when you lose someone to suicide, you don't even know what you're feeling or how to express it. When we come here there's a real sense of comfort. It's terrible that there are so many people that have the need to be here but it's also very comforting to know that you're not alone," said Patel.