By the end of 2018, Columbia County was reported to have the second highest rate of suicide per capita in the State of Oregon. Nationally, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. However, many believe suicide can be prevented.
In an effort to raise awareness around the fight for suicide prevention locally, volunteers from across Columbia County will join the quarter of a million people who will walk in towns across the United States in the annual Columbia County Out of the Darkness community walk.
The walk, hosted by the Scappoose Police Department (SPD), will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 21 at Heritage Park in Scappoose. The walk supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s education and support programs and its bold goal to reduce the annual national suicide rate by 20 percent by the year 2025.
Check-in and registration time is scheduled for 7:30 a.m., with the walk to begin at 9:00 a.m.
“Suicide touches one in five American families. We hope that by walking we will draw attention to this issue and keep other families from experiencing a suicide loss. Our ultimate goal is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide,” event
organizers said via press release.
The Columbia County Out of Darkness community walk is one of more than 550 Out of the Darkness overnight, community, and campus walks scheduled across the country this year. Officials said the walks are expected to unite more than 300,000 walkers and raise millions of dollars for suicide prevention efforts.
Last year, the walks raised over $21 million for the cause, with Columbia County’s walk raising over $12,000 of that total from 165 walkers and 23 teams.
Speakers at this year’s local walk will include SPD Chief Norm Miller, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) representative Angela Perry, Columbia Funeral Home manager Holly Houston, Columbia Community Mental Health’s Crisis Intervention Coordinator Brianne Mares, and co-chair Karen Blades.
“These walks are about turning hope into action,” AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia said. “The research has shown us how to fight suicide, and if we keep up the fight, the science is only going to get better and our culture will get smarter about mental health. With the efforts of our courageous volunteers, and a real investment from our nation’s leaders, we hope to significantly reduce the suicide rate in the United States.”
Local sponsors for the Scappoose Out of the Darkness event include: Matt McHugh of Cascadia Home Loans, John L. Scott Real Estate, Guild MTG, Columbia Funeral Home, Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate – Scappoose Branch, Lea Chitwood of ReMax Power Pro’s, Healthy Smiles of Scappoose, Northwest Plumbing Services, Columbia NW Heating Inc., Sommers Financial, Columbia Pacific CCO, Columbia Community Mental Health, and Ticor Title.
Blades, who will speak at the walk, said she began participating because her husband attempted suicide twice in 2017, and that same year, a dear friend of hers lost her son.
“I participate to help others that are struggling, other families of people who have attempted or who have completed,” Blades said. “It’s helped me find support in our community.”