YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Thousands of people took strides Saturday in Youngstown to raise awareness on a topic that’s often not talked about: suicide.
On average, one person dies by suicide every five hours in Ohio. According to most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s the 11th leading cause of death overall in the state.
Nearly 2,500 people came out Saturday morning for the Out of the Darkness Walk. All funds went to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“Everyone here has something in common,” said Natalie Preusser, a suicide survivor.
People wore T-shirts, held signs and shared pictures to remember loved ones lost to suicide.
“It’s never forgotten,” said Jenna Modelski, who lost a brother to suicide. “It will never be forgotten.”
There was also a shining a light from those who’ve made it through their darkest times.
“If I would have succeeded, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” Preusser said. “And I wouldn’t be nearly as happy as I’ve been the past couple years.”
“We support each other and we hold onto each other,” survivor Ciera Johnson said. “We just make each other know that you’re not in this alone and you’re gonna be alright.”
They share in each other’s pain, hoping to raise awareness and help each other heal.
“Other people have gone through the same thing,” Modelski said. “We’re spreading it out that we can change — it doesn’t have to end that way.”
The Out of the Darkness Walk grows every year. Organizers say AFSP has set a goal to reduce the annual suicide rate 20 percent by 2025.
“The word is being spread that it’s not a stigma,” Modelski said. “People need to get together.”
For more on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, check out their official website here.