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Out of the Darkness Walk planned this Saturday

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will hold its first Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Suffolk this weekend.

The event is in its 13th year but previously has been held only in Virginia Beach, and then in Virginia Beach and Newport News. This year, however, Suffolk and Norfolk walks are also being held.

“We sort of outgrew Mount Trashmore in a big way,” Christy Letsom, who serves on the Virginia Chapter board for the organization, said of the multiple locations. “And a lot of times, communities want to be with people who are in their community. It made sense to speak to that.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention conducts outreach to survivors of suicide loss as well as trainings available for a wide range of audiences, from parents and teachers to students to school counselors and first responders.

This year in Hampton Roads, the foundation has delivered education, outreach and training to more than 2,200 people and administered six prevention and support programs for different audiences.

“We offer many different evidence-based programs that support communities, teaching schools and parents and high school students the warning signs,” Letsom said. “One of the things we do with fundraising is we send it right back to the community and offer free trainings. I guarantee we can probably find a training that will fit the group you would like to have trained.”

Letsom encouraged people to attend the walk not only as a way of supporting the foundation’s work but also as a way to heal.

Letsom has a personal connection to suicide loss as well as a professional connection. She lost her brother, Casey Turpin, to suicide about 41 years ago.

“For me, the first time I participated in a walk was the first time my brother’s name was said out loud in a public way since he died, and it had been 20 years,” she said. “It was an awe-inspiring moment to hear a name nobody had said for so long. It was really healing to be around others who have not had the same experience but had a similar experience.”

The suicide prevention community has changed a lot since her brother died, Letsom said. Back then, hotlines and self-help communities were just starting.

“There’s so much more that’s available to family and friends now,” she said.

“If you’re not sure about attending the walk, give it a try,” Letsom added. “Don’t be afraid to come out and support others who have lost somebody to suicide. If you yourself have lived that experience, you will find healing at the walk.”

The event will take place Saturday at Bennett’s Creek Park, 3000 Bennetts Creek Park Road, at 10 a.m. On-site registration begins at 9 a.m.

Call 822-9961 or visit afsp.org/suffolk for more information.