Hundreds are expected to gather for the Out of the Darkness Walk this weekend in Howard County. The walk helps to spread awareness about suicide and raises funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“It is our mission to save lives and bring hope to those who have already been affected by suicide,” said Kat Olbrich, the director of the Maryland Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “In Maryland, every year we lose 586 people to suicide. So that means on average, every 15 hours somebody dies by suicide. But we want to let people know that there’s hope and they’re not alone.“
The Out of the Darkness Walk in Howard County is scheduled for Sunday, September 30th at Lake Elkhorn Park in Columbia. Registration begins at 11am and the walk kicks off at 12:30pm.
“Our biggest goal is to end the stigma around mental health and suicides,” said Olbrich.
Four years ago, Hayley Klein’s world was turned upside down when she became one of so many people affected by suicide.
“I got a terrible phone call that my cousin who was 18 at the time had taken his life,” said Klein. “Shortly thereafter, I had two friends who also took their lives.”
It was a heartbreaking reality that was tough to comprehend.
“Within that 6-month period, I had never been touched by suicide and then I was and it was back to back to back,” said Klein. “I had to do something to help myself heal, to help me understand and to find others who had gone through that.”
Klein was able to find some comfort through the Out of the Darkness Walk in Howard County. Now she’s the Walk Chair and is organizing this year’s event knowing firsthand the impact it can have on those affected by suicide.
“Walkers will go on about a 3-mile loop around Lake Elkhorn to kind of get a sense of community, to recognize that they’re not alone,” said Klein. “Whether they struggle themselves, they support someone who struggles or they have a loss, that there’s a community around suicide.”
Organizers hope walkers can find comfort in the event by seeing that they’re not alone.
“If someone has been affected by suicide, they often feel so alone,” said Olbrich. “Suicide is a very unexpected death so they don’t know where to go, or how to find help. But by walking with us and seeing that there’s other people who have been impacted they have some sense of hope and also there’s people to reach out to for help.”
Walking out of the darkness to not only comfort those who have experienced suicide loss, but also let those who are still struggling know that there is help out there.
“They should reach out to anyone and everyone that they can because tomorrow needs you. You need to be here tomorrow,” said Klein. “If the first thing you reach out to doesn’t work, try another and try another and keep trying to stay here with us.”