Suffolk readies to “walk” to prevent suicide

Published 5:20 pm Friday, October 13, 2023

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Suffolk is gearing up to fight back against the darkness known as suicide. The 7th annual Out of the Darkness Suffolk Walk will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Bennett’s Creek Park, with check-ins at 10 a.m. Benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the community walk aims to unite residents affected by suicide and mental health conditions while honoring lost loved ones and offering community support.

With the help of various sponsors, including Nansemond Brewing Station, Baron’s Pub — Suffolk, Rotary Smithfield and Western Tidewater Community Services Board, Walk Co-Chairs Jennifer Swinson and Angie Agar are organizing this year’s walk. Ahead of the event, Swinson talked about what people can expect from the event. 

“Our registration starts at 10 a.m., and we are going to have many community partners out there. Whether they are there to encourage those and support our community or provide resources that are available right here in Suffolk in the surrounding communities,” Swinson said.

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In her second year as a Chair for the Suffolk walk, Swinson talked about what inspired her to join the AFSP.

“The community inspires me to keep doing what I do so that we can come together with a shared sense of togetherness in loss and all the feelings that come along with that, so that we can honor our loved ones,” she said.

Likewise, Swinson expressed the importance of acknowledging suicide and overall mental health issues in our society.

“Mental health struggles and suicide prevention is a topic that needs to be talked about more often. It’s a stigma that I have run into. So many people have experienced loss and never told anyone because they were either ashamed of it or afraid to bring it up or didn’t know how to talk about it,” Swinson said. “So when I walk through the door saying ‘Let’s come together for suicide prevention,’ it stops some people in their tracks, but in my experience, they’re more than willing to help.”

Swinson says the event will have “many community resource partners” to provide encouragement and resources to attendees. The event will have a special Honor Bead ceremony along with music and guest speakers. Swinson explained the ceremony in detail.

“The bead ceremony is one of my favorite parts because everyone walking around is wearing a different color of beads, and it’s our way of telling our story without having to tell our story. For example, if you’re wearing gold beads, you’ve lost a parent, and you can relate silently with anyone else walking around wearing gold beads,” Swinson said.

Swinson also says that for proper pathways for treatment, the 988 hotline for suicide and mental health crises is recommended.

“For immediate attention, they can call the 988 hotline. We just celebrated one year of that up and running, and that was one of the fundraising goals that we work for through the Out of the Darkness Walks all across the nation, and now we are trying to make sure that stays staffed and up-and-running,” she said. “So, for an immediate resource, dial 988.” 

Finally, Swinson provided encouragement for those struggling with their mental health or going through a difficult time.

“If you’re going through a difficult time, reach out and talk to someone. Have a real conversation, talk through your struggles. They want to hear from you and will listen and can connect you with the right resources if needed,” Swinson said.

If you are in crisis, please call, text, or chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. For more information, go to,, or