Out of the Darkness

Out of the Darkness

Step by step, walkers hope to break the silence about depression and suicide.

“He was the happiest guy you’d ever meet,” said Leann DuPont, describing her father.

In April of 2001, DuPont’s father committed suicide. He was 63.

Ever since, DuPont, a Reston resident, has been involved in volunteer work to help the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

DuPont said education is the key to preventing suicide. “The biggest thing is the stigma where nobody talks about it,” said DuPont, who chaired the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, which took place Sunday, Oct. 1, and started at the Reston Town Center.

The event, which benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, increases awareness about suicide. “People see, ‘I’m not the only one,’ then they see they can talk about it,” said DuPont, who hopes to help break the silence about depression and suicide.

ABOUT 200 PEOPLE participated in the third annual walk, which is a metaphor for the ongoing effort to spread the word about suicide prevention to the public and bring light into the discussion of depression.

“It’s all about bringing people out of the dark and into the light where they talk about it,” said DuPont.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, about 20 million Americans suffer from serious depression. Every 18 minutes someone dies of suicide, the organization says. And, among 15-24-year-olds, suicide is the third leading cause of death.

“People don’t realize the effect,” said Hollie Piraino of Remington, Va., who walked for a friend’s sister.

Christy Purdy, with about 15 family members and friends, walked for her brother, Jeffrey Tackett, who committed suicide last October at the age of 26.

“He was a graduate student at American University working on his Ph.D. in economics,” said Purdy, who came from Raleigh, N.C. to participate in the walk.

“Sometimes it’s a hard topic to discuss,” she said, explaining why the walk is important.

Several students from George Washington University also participated in the walk, celebrating the lives of friends who had committed suicide.

There have been seven suicides at the school in the last four years, said DuPont.

SIMILAR COMMUNITY WALKS take place throughout the country. The proceeds are used by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to conduct research and educational programs that aim to prevent suicide and save lives, increase national awareness about depression and suicide as well as assist those dealing with suicide loss.