Connection has been the elixir that's enabled us to #KeepGoing this year, as we all try to navigate the challenges brought about the COVID-19 pandemic. For those of us at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, one of those challenges has been figuring out how to transform our Out of the Darkness Walks – which bring so many people together each year to raise awareness and funds in the fight against suicide – into meaningful experiences when we can’t gather in person as we have in the past.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last several months, it’s that connection does not require physical presence. It’s in acts of kindness, such as sending #HopeInTheMailbox, through which so many of you have brightened others’ days with a thoughtful postcard. (So far, 7,000 have been delivered, in 15 countries.)
It can be by logging a small, daily action to benefit your overall health and wellbeing, while bringing awareness to mental health and letting others know you care, as nearly 2,200 people did during our six week Out of the Darkness Wellness Challenge. From August 3rd to September 13th, participants logged more than 95,000 miles and 1 million minutes of activities, ranging from cardio to coloring, dancing to deep cleaning, game nights to gardening, journaling, meditation, prayer, and dozens of #RealConvos with friends and family members. Each action earned points on the Kilter Rewards leaderboard which, when coupled with our participant features, provided a vibrant snapshot of a community working #TogetherToFightSuicide.
Connection is woven into the fabric of all our Out of the Darkness Experiences. Whether it’s a drive-through luminaria ceremony, a drive-in with a jumbo screen, 100% virtual, or something in between, our volunteers and staff across the country are dedicated to providing opportunities to safely celebrate and honor loved ones while advancing AFSP’s mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. Team captains are leading efforts to raise awareness through collaborations such as the End of the Rainbox ice cream fundraiser created by Radio DJ Lux and Chef Gerard Craft in St. Louis, or the DC101 and Leidos partnership to create this year’s One More Light team. Fundraisers are inspiring hope and healing in creative new ways, such as Kim McKewon’s Everest Challenge for the San Diego Experience, or the “My Why” videos and “Wall of Hope” messages shared by supporters across the state of Oregon. You can click on the links above to read more about each of those creative initiatives, and learn how you can rally people in support of our movement.
A recent AFSP team meeting wrapped with a brief mediation exercise, in which we were instructed to all take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that, “I am not alone.” And then it clicked. There’s a sense of comfort in knowing there are others who understand, and that’s what our Out of the Darkness events have always been about.
The stories we share create empathy and understanding, fuel our mission, and give us the strength to #KeepGoing. As we wrap up National Suicide Prevention Month and look ahead to World Mental Health Day on October 10th, we encourage you to take action and connect with others by registering for an Out of the Darkness Experience.