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The Overnight Virtual Experience: Generating Awareness, Impact, and Hope to Stop Suicide

18 Feb 2021 — 3 min read

BY Robert Gebbia, AFSP Chief Executive Officer, Erin Kenny, AFSP Manager, Out of the Darkness Walks

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Snowmobiling in Minnesota to Raise Awareness for Suicide

This past year has been challenging for so many. We recognize that and are with you.

Just about every summer since 2002, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has held our flagship event, the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk, in which people who have been affected by suicide and mental health conditions – as well as those supporting them – walk over 16 miles through the night, raising awareness and funds to prevent this leading cause of death. For many people, it is the first time they come into contact with AFSP and all the resources we provide. The Overnight is a family, with many people returning year after year to walk alongside others with whom they share a powerful connection. We were disappointed this past June when we were unable to be together physically due to the pandemic. But we were determined to #KeepGoing, and held a successful virtual event thanks to you, our passionate community

The safety and well-being of our Overnight family is our top priority, along with providing a powerful and meaningful Overnight Experience. We know things are still uncertain. We also know that now, more than ever, we need something to look forward to. We need hope.

With this sense of hope, we are excited to announce The Overnight Virtual Experience. Rather than meeting together in person, people can safely participate from their homes, pledging their #OvernightAction such as walking, running, journaling, bicycling, reading, yoga, and more. Participant actions engage their friends and followers by raising funds and awareness for suicide prevention. A special online event for participants will take place on June 26, culminating The Overnight Virtual Experience.

The impact of The Overnight over the years cannot be overstated. In 2002, some doubted whether anyone would be willing to show up to support a cause that was kept mostly in the shadows. Instead, 25 Overnight Walks and one Virtual Experience over the course of 18 years have resulted in more than 500 miles walked in nine host cities by more than 25,000 Walkers, who have raised over $50 million for the cause. Last year’s Virtual Overnight Experience allowed us to take The Overnight international for the first time and raised over $1 million!

Whether we are walking all night together, or we are home and safely distanced, our Overnight family is helping create a world without suicide. There is reason for hope. For the first time in two decades, the U.S. suicide rate in 2019 decreased by 2.1 percent from the previous year. It is essential that we keep engaged, spreading awareness, and raising necessary funds to continue important AFSP education and support programs, research and advocacy during this uncertain time.

Anyone who has participated in an Overnight Walk knows the impact the event has on their understanding of suicide and mental health, their own healing journey, and on the suicide prevention movement in our country. They know the love and support that is generated through the event, and the feeling of empowerment, pride, accomplishment, and most importantly, hope. This year will be no exception.

If you haven’t participated in The Overnight, now is the time. Together, we are stronger and more resilient, and we are focused more than ever on our mission of saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. Now is your chance to take action, create a lasting impact, and connect with others who understand.

Register Today to join our Overnight family and be a part of this unforgettable event.  Take your first steps today.

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