The rain did not stop about 300 people from walking the city’s streets Saturday to bring more awareness to the issue of suicide.
The “Out of the Darkness” campus walk at Idaho State University is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which hosts two of these walks a year in every state. By raising awareness, event organizers and participants aim to change suicide’s connotations.
“We need to erase the stigma, we need to change our numbers (of people committing suicide),” said Jeni Summers, event chair. “So that we’re not part of the top ten (states).”
Idaho’s suicide death rate is 19.23 per 100,000, based on data from 2013, according to the AFSP. That puts Idaho at the sixth-highest state in the nation for suicide.
In addition to the walk, the event gave participants the opportunity to share stories of their suicide loss. The event included speakers from related fields, such as counseling and psychology.
A group of about 20 people made a strong showing for one victim of suicide. Dubbed “Team Elizabeth,” family and friends donned shirts to honor Elizabeth Payne, who died three months ago.
Elizabeth Payne’s mother, Pamela Payne, has a specific goal.
“(I want to) get more word out into the schools,” said Payne. “So that the kids are comfortable talking to counselors, teachers or parents if they know of somebody that’s talking about suicide– or have thought about it themselves.”
She knows how much of a difference that can make.
“If somebody knows that there’s a hand out there, that will help them just a little bit, it could save lives,” Payne said.
Summers said because of the event, Idaho will get its own AFSP chapter. Even if you missed the event, you can still donate to help the AFSP by going here. Donations will be accepted until June 30.