Out of the Darkness raises suicide awareness

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2014’s Out of the Darkness walk. (Submitted photo)

2014’s Out of the Darkness walk. (Submitted photo)

By Navar Watson

Suicide is the 10-leading cause of death in the United States, yet when Lisa Brattain’s 19-year-old son Kurt died in 2006, there were few resources for survivors of suicide loss.

“There was no way to connect with other people that had experienced something similar,” Brattain, of Noblesville, said. “We all do better when we find ‘our people,’ and there was no way to find our people.”

In 2007, Brattain founded the Indiana chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and now directs the Ohio chapter, too. In 2007, there were only 22 chapters nationwide. Now there are 77.

On Sept. 12, the local chapter will host an Out of the Darkness walk in Indianapolis to promote awareness and raise money for research on mental illness and depression. The walk comes at the end of National Suicide Prevention Week and two days after World Suicide Prevention Day.

There will be various resources for anyone who has contemplated suicide or thinks a loved one has. AFSP offers programs teaching people the warning signs of suicide and the right words to use when discussing the subject.

One of the biggest myths of suicide, Brattain said, is “if you talk about [it], you’ll cause it to happen.” This is “completely untrue.” Instead, lack of communication and information perpetuates stigma, judgment and shame surrounding the topic.

“We always avoid things we’re afraid of, but if we’re prepared, we’re not afraid of it,” Brattain said. “Stigma can only exist in the absence of knowledge.”

Several suicides have been prevented, Brattain said, because one person decided to ask the victim how he or she felt.

AFSP also educates people on the severity of mental illnesses, which like other illnesses, need professional attention.

“Mental illness is an illness,” Brattain said. “Your brain is another organ and it can get ill just like any other part of your body. And it doesn’t go away on it’s own.”

About 150 people attended the Indianapolis walk in Brattain’s first year. Last year, 2,500 participated in the Indianapolis walk and more than 6,000 participated in walks across the state.

Half of the money raised goes directly to research on mental illnesses. The other half supports AFSP’s training programs and awareness events.

Raising money is especially important to Brattain after she learned of the discrepancy between funding in research for suicide versus breast cancer, even though the death rates are nearly equal. In 2006, $32 million was spent on research for depression and suicide as opposed to hundreds of millions for breast cancer.

Brattain’s biggest advice to people learning about suicide is to research the warning signs and “don’t be afraid to ask.”

“Assume you’re the only person that’s going to ask,” Brattain said. “Because if you’re waiting for somebody else to do it, that somebody else may never come along.”

Registration for the Out of the Darkness walk begins at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 12 and the opening ceremony starts an hour later. The walk is free, though there are various fundraising incentives during the day.

Resources are available at afsp.org. The suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

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