Jacksonville Suicide Prevention Group Offering Support, Remembrance at Walk Out of the Darkness Event

By Jeremy Coumbes on September 8, 2023 at 3:12pm

Victims of suicide along with those left behind will be the focus of an evening of remembrance and hope next week.

Monday is the start of National Suicide Awareness Week and the Jacksonville group S.T.A.R.S. for Suicide Prevention is hosting its annual Walk Out of the Darkness event on the Central Park Plaza in downtown Jacksonville on Thursday.

Kelley Cannon with S.T.A.R.S says there will be music, a candlelight walk, luminaries, and the lighting of the memorial candle along with other activities to help remember loved ones who were lost to suicide.

We try to do this annually and what we do, we think of this as a night of hope and remembrance of those who have lost their lives to suicide. We will have luminaries, people can take one and write the name of their friend, loved one, or family member who has lost their life to suicide.

We will put those then around the statue area in the center of the plaza. Then later on towards the end of the program, we will be having the candlelight walk around the inside area of the downtown plaza, just for a time of remembrance.”

An alumni of Illinois College, and well-known speaker, songwriter, and storyteller, Heather Harlan will be the guest speaker for this year’s Walk Out of the Darkness event. Harlan is a public health educator in Columbia, Missouri, who lost her son to suicide in early 2019.

In Morgan County, 36 people lost their lives to suicide from 2015 to now, with three of those in 2023, according to Morgan County Coroner Marcy Patterson. Cannon says suicide is something that is hard to talk about, but definitely needs to be talked about.

It’s always hard to say what triggers it, but each person handles issues differently. What I suggest is the best we can do is to be there for people who are struggling.”

Cannon says suicide needs to be talked about in a way that there is hope so people who are struggling know there are people who understand and want to listen.

The S.T.A.R.S. for Suicide Prevention’s Walk Out of the Darkness begins at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday, September 14th on the plaza in downtown Jacksonville.

The event is free and open to the public, and attendees are asked to bring their own chairs. Refreshments will be served immediately following the event.

In the event of rain, the event will be moved to Central Christian Church, located at 359 W. College Avenue, in Jacksonville.

Julie Gerke and The Source Contributed to this story.