Jul. 31, 2020 - Community is the heart of the Out of the Darkness Walks. Organized by teams of volunteers in 400 cities across the country, the Walks unite more than 300,000 people each year, showing the world that it’s important to talk about mental health and suicide.
So what happens when we’re in the midst of a global pandemic that makes hosting large in-person events uncertain? We double down on our “why” and get creative.
Why do people attend the walks? Proof that no matter what your personal connection to the cause is, you are not alone and that people care. A sense of belonging. Space to honor those we love and our own personal struggles. The opportunity to give back and help others. The Out of the Darkness Walks are one of the few places you can look around and know that people truly understand your experience, simply by the honor beads they wear or the names they have on their shirts indicating for whom they walk. The walks are a safe place to ride a roller coaster of emotions through tears, laughter, moments of reflection, and hugs. They create hope.
While we expect this Out of the Darkness event season to look a little different, our dedication to helping you build community, heal, share stories, and create impact is unwavering. And that’s where the creativity comes in.
First, we’re repositioning our walks as Out of the Darkness Experiences because we know it was never just about the act of walking itself, but the feeling you get from attending an event. Each volunteer committee is working tirelessly to create meaningful opportunities to connect and inspire you, and you can stay up to date on those plans by registering for an upcoming event.
We’re also launching two national initiatives this month:
The first is a wellness challenge in partnership with the Kilter Rewards app. The challenge will run for six weeks, starting Monday, August 3rd and ending Sunday, September 13th. During this time, you will take an action each day to show your support of the cause while earning points for completing activities that benefit your overall health and wellbeing, raise awareness for suicide prevention, and let others know you care. Learn more and sign up for the challenge HERE.
The second is our #HopeInTheMailbox postcard campaign, where you can brighten someone’s day by sending a free postcard to let them know you’re thinking of them. While there may be some limitations in how we can gather in person this fall, we can still send hope and let people know that they are not alone.
As we head into the fall, we remain focused on what’s possible. The online nature of many events lends itself to greater participation from family, friends, and colleagues across the country and world. Imagine how many people can be reached if we’re not limited by geography, or even a specific date and time? How many people can share stories and learn that there is a strong, resilient, and passionate community working to fight suicide, and there is a place for them within that community? How many small donations can add up to millions of dollars that fund crucial research, education, advocacy, support programs, and prevention efforts across the country, many of which can be presented online now, opening the doors to even more people understanding how to recognize the warning signs and help someone they’re concerned about.
So while there is a lot of uncertainty about what the future holds, we know for sure that our mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide has never been more important, and that we will never stop working #TogetherToFightSuicide.
For more information on the Out of the Darkness Experiences, visit afsp.org/fightsuicide