Photo Courtesy of Gabriella Baker
On Oct. 28, people united together for a common cause by walking in D.C. to raise suicide awareness and change the conversation; the “Out of the Darkness Walk” was put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP). Many CHS students participated in hopes of this mission, as well as to raise funds for the cause.
Prior to the event, participants raised money as a team. This money goes towards suicide prevention research, the creation of more suicide prevention programs, advocacy of public policy and support for those who have been affected by suicide.
“The Out of the Darkness Walk is an annual walk held in D.C. and other cities around the country,” said senior Gabriella Baker, who participated in the walk this year and raised money for the second year in a row. “It encourages those struggling [with suicidal thoughts] to come ‘out of the darkness’ and receive the help they need without feeling like a burden.”
This annual walk is a fundraising event that brings together family, friends and supporters all around the world in efforts to erase the stigma of mental health illness and suicide by raising awareness. According to the AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walk website, suicide claims more lives than war, murder and natural disasters combined.
“People with mental illness should not be afraid or ashamed,” sophomore Gina Baker said. “It’s okay to not be okay. People who are struggling should seek help and realize that no one is ever alone.”
Sisters Gabriella and Gina Baker walked in honor of their father, Thomas Baker, who passed away in 2010.
“This year, I tapped into the emotional side of it a bit more and took it as a great time to remember my dad,” Gabriella Baker said. “I’m so grateful to all of my friends and family members that walked with me. They’re a part of the reason why this walk is so special to me.”
Friends and family of the Bakers showed up to support, making up their team of 14 walkers.
“My favorite part of the event was seeing how it brought so many people together for such a good cause,” sophomore Lisa Walsh said.
In total, the D.C. walk raised over $228,000 as of Nov. 9, according to AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Walk website.
“I achieved my personal fundraising goal of $1,000 for the second year in a row which contributed to our team’s fundraising that totaled $2,346,” Gabriella Baker said.
Suicide and mental health conditions affect millions of people around the world, and organizations such as AFSP help unite those affected. Towards the end of the walk there was a closing ceremony where there was a live singer, and everyone held a small candle.
“I walked in memory of my best friend Gabriella Baker’s father, Thomas Baker,” Wootton HS senior Sara Cohn said. “My favorite part of the event was the closing ceremony when everyone held a candle in a moment of silence.”
In addition to the walk, there were speakers, a resource fair and tons of activities to connect with others in the community and spread awareness.
“If anyone needs help but feels that they don’t have a voice, always remember that you matter,” Gabriella Baker said. “Your life matters.”