More than 100 people attended Saturday’s Out of the Darkness walk, which raised money for suicide awareness and mental illness research.
So far, local residents have raised $3,050, but people can donate on the Out of Darkness Web site through the end of the year.
Lauree Moffett organized the walk after her son, Austin, hung himself just over a year ago.
Out of the Darkness — a national series of walks benefitting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention — aims to raise money for research, education and advocacy.
A portion of the proceeds will funnel back into the community for suicide awareness programs.
Moffett attended an Out of the Darkness walk in Tempe before deciding that Rim Country needed one as well.
“I think it helped the people that came to the walk. It’s OK to remember that loved one,” said Moffett. “Everybody deals with suicide at some point in their life. They weren’t bad people.”
Moffett says a taboo stains the subject, making people reluctant to discuss it. However, with suicide ranking as the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65, talking about the subject and raising awareness can be key for prevention, advocates say.
“It’s such a different type of death. It’s immediate, unexpected,” said Moffett.
The person who kills himself takes away his own misery, but leaves everyone behind wallowing in the hole left by his absence.
Signs preceded Austin’s death, and Moffett says that people should learn to recognize the signs to help people on the verge of hurting themselves.
Warning signs include increased alcohol or drug use, impulsiveness and perhaps most importantly, threats.
Many people who kill themselves first tried unsuccessfully. Every day, 2,300 people try to kill themselves and another 90 are successful, according to the foundation.
Gila County ties with Mohave County for the third highest suicide rate in the state at 20.5 suicides per 100,000.
During Saturday’s walk, people could post photographs of their loved ones on memory boards. People could get up and talk about the person they lost, and then everyone walked around Green Valley Park.
Moffett hopes to hold the walk again next year.