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Taking Two Steps Forward: Walking for Suicide Prevention

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

"Hold on. You matter."

This phrase is not only critically important to someone in need, but it's also the name of a walk I took part in last month to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so what better time to highlight this important event?

Organized by the Bucks County Suicide Prevention Task Force, The "Hold On, You Matter" Annual Spring Walk took place at the Upper Bucks Campus of Bucks County Community College, where I teach. I came across the event posting in the campus e-newsletter, and I made a mental note to sign up.

Two women smiling together, holding sign
Me and my sister-in-law, Cheryl Fajge

As you know from this blog, mental health is important to me, so I do what I can to support the cause. What you may not know is that my dad struggled with depression for years. He refused to talk about it. He didn't know how to. He would never admit it, would never show that vulnerability. I didn't want to make the same mistake.

I have had some dark days of my own and recently had experienced a bout of postpartum depression, even though you wouldn't have known based on my social media posts and pics. This is common for so many of us who struggle on the inside. Once I began talking about it and having my meds adjusted, I began to feel better. I no longer struggled to get through the day; I could function again and no longer felt guilty. It wasn't my fault.

My sister-in-law, Cheryl, joined me on this brisk spring Saturday morning in late April. This was my first campus event, so I didn't know exactly what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised when I showed up to find a lot of people had come out for the morning's activities, which included speakers, vendor offerings, and raffle drawings.

Before the walk began, we chatted, checked out the many vendor tables, loaded up on free goodies, and made a couple of donations. The event kicked off with speakers, including those who had lost a loved one to mental illness. A list of names was read, each name in honor of a family member or friend who had lost his or her life to suicide. Hearing each name --- so many ---was a sobering moment.

Two hands displaying inspirational bracelets
Showing off our new inspirational bracelets

That morning, Cheryl and I had the chance to hang out just the two of us, with no other distractions, and it was a bonding moment for us. We talked for awhile afterward and decided to start making regular walks together a habit.

She mentioned to me that because she shows support for suicide prevention, she's often asked if she had anyone close to her who had taken his or her own life. She said she knew of people who had, though had no close family members or friends who had. In any case, she said she supports the cause because she feels so strongly about the importance of mental health. Suicide prevention is mental health support. It is awareness. If you support mental health efforts, you support suicide prevention.

The walk went by in a flash. It's always more enjoyable to walk with someone else, and I had not only Cheryl but also several hundred others with us.

Getting out there with so many others to support the same cause felt invigorating. There is strength in numbers. While we were all gathered together for a somber reason, I left that morning feeling energized, ready to keep taking two steps forward.


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