2000 people expected at suicide prevention walk in Detroit

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A new study examines the effect ’13 Reasons Why’ might have had on internet searches for suicide-related queries. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

Well out of the closet of taboos, suicide is getting talked about — and, one might say, walked about — in metro Detroit this week.

Suicide prevention, that is, and with a focus on police officers and the young. The issue has grown in urgency and prominence as the suicide rate has risen nationwide since 1999, particularly among youths 15 to 24, according to nonprofit groups that chart the issue.

About 2,000 walkers are expected Saturday morning for Walk to Fight Suicide in downtown Detroit. That’s a new urban location this year, after more than a decade when the annual event was held 30 miles from Detroit in the rolling hills of Kensington Metropark near Milford.

“I enjoyed having it out at Kensington – it was very serene – but we were more of a whisper there,” said Anne Perry, volunteer chair of the walk.

“Now we think it’s time to make some noise and be seen and be heard in downtown Detroit,” said Perry of Beverly Hills. The walk starts at 10 a.m. at Hart Plaza and follows the riverfront, she said.

Perry “lost a good friend in 2007” to suicide, she said.

A few miles away, more than 1,000 are expected to walk — also on Saturday morning — at Detroit’s island park on Belle Isle in support of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The two groups have similar goals and many mutual members, yet this year they unintentionally put similar events on the same morning, Perry said.

“We plan to avoid that next year,” she said.

Earlier this week, the Detroit Police Department held its first public forum on preventing suicide in the ranks, Assistant Chief James White said.

“This problem affects everybody — rich and poor, all kinds of people,” from high-profile entertainers like Chris Cornell to street people to police, White said.

“More cops commit suicide than are killed by gunfire and traffic accidents,” White told an audience of about 50 officers, their family members and volunteers in the department’s peer support program. They gathered at the banquet hall of Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church to hear why officers who suffer from job stress, substance abuse and troubled relationships are especially vulnerable to taking their own lives, speakers said.

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In 2016, 108 police officers took their own lives nationwide, while 97 died in traffic accidents and gunfire combined, according to Badge of Life, a nonprofit group in Connecticut that compiles the statistics. In contrast to the suicide rate among all Americans, which has been rising, the number of “suicides in blue” actually dropped in recent years, said Ron Clark, Badge of Life chairman and a retired Connecticut state police officer.

Still, the need for education to prevent suicides remains strong among police officers, especially those in big urban departments like Detroit’s “where the stress can just be unimaginable,” Clark said.

After being locked in the closet of taboo subjects for eons, suicide has emerged as a subject for serious talk and big awareness walks, said Peggy Goodwin of Royal Oak, a board member with the Michigan chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Our most recent data reflects a 24% increase in suicides from 1999 to 2014,” said Goodwin, who as a teenager lost her father to suicide, she said. More than 40,000 Americans die by suicide each year, according to the foundation.

Especially troubling is a sharp rise among teens and young adults, she said.

“In the last two years, it’s gone from being number four to number two as a cause of death for American youths aged 15 to 24,” Goodwin said.

Those who want to join Saturday’s Walk to Fight Suicide can register 8-10 a.m. at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. Registration is free for the three-mile walk although donations are welcome. As of Friday night, those entered in the walk had pledged about $118,000 toward a $175,000 goal, according to the group’s website.

Half of the money raised is to stay in metro Detroit for local prevention programs while half is devoted to national research overseen by the New York City-based American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, organizers said.

Others can enter the NAMI walk on Belle Isle by showing up 8-9:30 a.m. for the 9:30 a.m. start. That event also is free. As of Friday night, the event had $138,000 in pledges toward a $200,000 goal, according to the NAMI Michigan website. 

Contact Bill Laitner: blaitner@freepress.com

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Source : http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2017/09/22/suicide-prevention-walk-detroit/695171001/

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