On Aug. 12, Arlington's Paul Sanchez will participate in an event called "Out of the Darkness Overnight," walking 20 miles through Chicago from dusk to dawn to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
AFSP is the nation's only non-profit organization devoted entirely to funding suicide research and suicide prevention education. The AFSP reports that someone dies by suicide every 18 minutes and more than 20 million people suffer from depression every year in the United States.
Ever since his sister Audrey M. Sanchez committed suicide in 1988, Sanchez has dedicated himself to raising funds for suicide prevention research and suicide awareness education programs.
To this day he still remembers the "pain and darkness so vividly" that followed his sister's tragic death.
Sanchez says that, "Suicide is hard to talk about. It's just too painful and the very word conjures dark and dreadful feelings. As a result, society doesn't talk about it and that's a tragedy."
He hopes his march through Chicago will increase societal awareness of suicide and help people like his sister before they take their lives; he is equally interested in providing support for the friends and family suicide victims leave behind.
When "Out of the Darkness Overnight" was held in Washington, D.C., in August 2002, Sanchez advised people on dealing with the loss of a loved one caused by suicide.
Sanchez is the captain of Team Hope, with members Justin Solomon and Meridith Ewers (and is eagerly accepting new members at www.theovernight.org).
On June 22, Sanchez held a fund-raiser at Lee Highway's Charleyhorse Grill to help reach his team's monetary goal. So far Sanchez, Solomon, and Ewers have raised $3,435 out of the $10,000 they hope to achieve through participating in "Out of the Darkness Overnight".
The program will also take place in San Francisco this summer. Each participant agrees to raise at least $1,000, complete a medical form, and make his own travel arrangements.
Sanchez's personal advice to people suffering from depression is "There is hope. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. There are people who care for them and want to help them face and deal with their life struggles."