BERLIN – Six deaths in Worcester County were attributed to suicide in 2014.
More than 16 percent of surveyed local teens said they’d considered killing themselves in 2013.
That, health officials say, is why events like this weekend’s Out of Darkness walk are so important.
“We really want to promote the conversation around mental health,” said the health department’s Brittany Hines. “It does get people talking and thinking.”
The fourth annual Out of Darkness walk, set to take place on the Ocean City Boardwalk Saturday, Sept. 26, is meant to raise awareness and promote suicide prevention. With suicide among the top 10 causes of death in Maryland, it’s something health officials want to see brought into the spotlight.
In 2012, the Worcester County Health Department worked with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Jesse Klump Memorial Fund to host the first Out of Darkness walk in Ocean City. Close to 200 registered for the inaugural event and in the years since that number has only grown. Last year, the walk attracted more than 500 registered participants.
Hines, who works for the health department as resource coordinator for the Local Management Board, has helped organize the walk since it first began. When her cousin, who was supposed to participate with her, took her own life four days before the 2013 event, the walk took on renewed importance for Hines.
“It became even more close to my heart,” she said. “It allows you to talk to people and hear other stories. You get to see you’re not alone.”
Amanda Pollack, another health department employee, is also a regular participant in the walk. She lost her uncle to suicide. She, too, said the walk provided a good opportunity for people to connect and share how suicide had affected them.
“It’s a heartwarming experience,” she said.
This year’s event is set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, on the Boardwalk at Caroline Street. Online registration is open until Friday through the health department’s website, www.worcesterhealth.org, but those interested in participating can also register on the Boardwalk at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Participants are not required to raise money for the walk although many do. So far, 326 walkers already registered have raised more than $13,000 to go toward research, creating educational programs and supporting survivors of suicide loss.
During the walk participants will be able to take part in a number of memorial activities.