This weekend, more than a thousand people will walk from dusk to dawn throughout downtown Dallas and SMU’s campus in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Overnight walk.
The Overnight walk will begin and end at the Dallas City Hall. Participants will walk more than 16 miles throughout the city to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention.
Each year, the AFSP hosts two overnight walks. This is the first year the Overnight walk will be in Dallas.
The official route for the walk has not yet been announced, but attendees will walk by major Dallas landmarks including the Dallas Museum of Art, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza, Reunion Tower and SMU’s own Gerald J. Ford Stadium. The Bank of America tower downtown will also be lit for the event.
“We have a route laid out,” said Alexis O’Brien, public relations director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “It will be marked out for people with crew members along the route to make sure people can make it.”
Participants will also be stopping on SMU’s campus for a longer snack and drink break before continuing on.
Each participant was required to raise a minimum of $1,000 to participate in the event. According to O’Brien, most participants surpass this goal and raise about $1,300. These funds will go toward research, educational programs, advocates for public policy, and to those affected.
One SMU team of three students will be participating in the event, along with those who have lost someone to suicide, people who have attempted suicide, advocates, teachers, veterans and other students.
The Out of the Darkness Walks began in Washington, D.C. in 2002 by someone who lost a loved one due to suicide. According to the AFSP website, the event is named Out of the Darkness to represent people literally and figuratively walking out of the darkness about suicide to discuss its impact and increase its awareness. Since its creation, more than $30 million has been raised for the cause.
“Over the course of the night you experience all sorts of emotions, be it sadness, happiness, but people aren’t crying all the time,” said Hannah Moch, communications assistant at the AFSP. “They meet people who have experienced similar things and can really connect on a deeper, personal level.”
The AFSP is the leading national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing suicide and raising awareness. It is headquartered in New York with 75 local chapters nationwide, including chapters in Central Texas, Houston and North Texas. The foundation’s overall goal is to reduce the suicide rate by 20 percent by 2025.
Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in Texas, claiming approximately 3,059 lives each year. It is the second leading cause of death for those ages 15-34.
Those struggling with suicide or know someone struggling with suicide are encouraged to visit the AFSP website or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8522.