Suicide prevention walk goes local
Published 10:21 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2017
The longtime organizer of a community awareness walk for suicide prevention has stepped out on her own to make the walk Hampton Roads’ own.
Chris Gilchrist, a local therapist, has been the local event organizer for a national organization for many years. But she recently incorporated a support group she runs, called Survivors of Suicide, for people who have lost a family member to suicide. That group, which has been in existence for 29 years, will now be able to benefit from the local fundraiser, now titled “Hampton Roads Morning of Hope, Help and Healing.”
“It was a very successful event for 11 years,” Gilchrist said of the prior event. “Hampton Roads has been so responsive to the cause of good mental health that we no longer need to kind of attach ourselves to national. Now, we can focus on the specific needs of Hampton Roads.”
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Gilchrist said the specific needs of Hampton Roads include assisting its huge military presence. Active-duty military personnel and veterans are at higher risk than the general public to die by suicide.
Gilchrist said depression and suicide in general are stigmatized. A risk factor for suicide is untreated depression.
“They don’t go for help the same way they would if they had asthma or diabetes,” she said. If the stigma is removed, “People are going to be more likely to ask for help.”
The new event will take place Sept. 9 at Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach.
Donations are not required to attend, Gilchrist said.
“We want everyone to be welcomed,” she said. However, any donations given are tax-deductible and will stay in Hampton Roads, she added.
The event will include awareness, with an informative program with several speakers who will talk personally about their experience with depression or suicide, as well as about 20 clinically licensed counselors to support and answer questions from attendees.
The event will also include remembrance activities. Those who have lost someone to suicide will be able to have their loved one’s name read during the program and put a photo on the memory wall. Attendees will also wear a colored armband representing their connection to someone who has suffered depression or died by suicide.
The event will also include celebration, with family activities and crafts, complimentary breakfast and a picnic lunch, and a crane quilt created by the Suffolk Quilters Guild given to the person who wins a free drawing.
Gilchrist said she is excited about this year’s event.
“I want to best serve Hampton Roads, and we best serve Hampton Roads by localizing the corporation,” she said.
Visit the walk website at www.sos-walk.org.