By Jason Cohen
The stigma of depression is often taboo to talk about. Unfortunately, this disease often leads to suicide. The New Jersey Department of Children and Families said in a 2013 report that suicide is the third-leading cause of death for New Jersey youth ages 10 to 24.
On Sept. 24, Chatham Township plans to host its inaugural Out of the Darkness Walk at Chatham High School with a goal to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and increase awareness of suicide prevention.
According to the AFSP, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 12th leading cause of death overall in New Jersey, yet is preventable.
In fact on Aug. 1, Governor Chris Christie signed a bill called The Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act, was inspired by a New Jersey high school track star and Ivy League college student who took her own life in January 2014. This requires colleges to make a mental health professional available around the clock to counsel students.
“Suicide is preventable, and while it’s not a topic that is often discussed, we believe our inaugural community walk will help shed light on this important issue,” said Chatham Township Mayor Curt Ritter in a press release. “Suicide touches one in five American families and we hope that by walking we save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. Earlier this year, we heard statistics from the school district of the Chathams in which four percent of middle school students and eight percent of high school students have thought about suicide. We know that suicide does not discriminate. I encourage all residents to consider participating in this important event and support our efforts to help prevent suicide.”
Ritter explained that he has made a point of increasing suicide awareness in Chatham Township. Earlier this year the township hosted a suicide awareness prevention seminar for residents and this walk is a natural progression in its efforts to raise awareness about this important issue.
“Residents have been supportive of this initiative as they realize the importance of removing the stigma associated with suicide,” Ritter noted. “In fact, residents from adjacent towns are also getting involved which is great as we look to increase awareness.”
New Jersey Area Director of AFSP Lorraine Mackin spoke with the “Chatham News” about the walk and suicide. Mackin explained that there is no single cause of suicide, but is often linked to mental health, depression, anxiety or drugs.
She explained that typically those who manage their mental health often do not think about suicide. However, people who take their lives often exhibit new behaviors that can be related to a painful event, loss or change.
“These walks give people the courage to open up about their own struggle or loss, and the platform to change our culture’s approach to mental health,” she said.
To register for the walk go to www.afsp.org/chathamtwp.