Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk in Downtown Jacksonville Thursday

By Jeremy Coumbes on September 3, 2019 at 3:25pm

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week and a local organization is holding an event Thursday evening in downtown Jacksonville, to bring awareness to suicide prevention.

Sherri McLaughlin who is a member of the STARS group, spoke with WLDS News about the Out of the Darkness Walk event.

“This is our 4th annual suicide prevention walk, and it is to bring awareness to suicide prevention, but also to celebrate the lives of those who are lost to suicide. The general public can attend, they can walk for someone, they can support families that lost someone to suicide, they can help us bring awareness to people who are feeling suicidal, and what to do, and where to get resources to help prevent suicide. It’s a very nice event that helps bring the community together to fight against suicide.”

S.T.A.R.S. Stands for Seek, Trust, Ask, Respond and Save a life. The acronym is intended to assist persons with thoughts of suicide to Seek someone out, to Trust that adult, to Ask for help, and then for that trusted person to Respond, and help Save a life.

McLaughlin said that the group works to promote awareness and to let those struggling with suicidal thoughts to know help is available and that they are not alone.

“The campaign is to help people speak up. Because there are resources, and feelings can be overcome. A lot of people struggle with a lot of things in life and there are a lot of resources out there to try and help people. And it’s very difficult and people do not want to talk about suicide and people are afraid to talk about suicide. But we want people to know that these people that lost their lives to suicide existed and they should be honored and respected for their life here on earth, and it’s OK to talk about them.”

The event on Thursday starts at 7:00 pm and is expected to last about an hour. Luminary bags will be available for writing the names of loved ones lost to suicide, and will be placed around the square. Attendees are also encouraged to draw pictures or write the names of people who are survivors or who have lost their lives to suicide, or families they wish to support. There will be a program with a speaker, including music and a prayer. The program is then followed by the candlelit walk around the square, during which, music will play in remembrance of those lost to suicide. Refreshments will be shared to close out the event.

If you are unable to attend the event, STARS asks that the public to turn on your porch lights at 8pm in a show of support to bringing awareness and prevention to suicide.

Sherri McLaughlin is a guidance counselor at Jacksonville High School, and said that an awareness program will be offered to all students at the school to help those that may be struggling.

“They feel embarrassed, there is a stigma that goes along with suicidal thoughts. People will say, “just don’t think that way”. We want kids to know that feelings are just feelings, and that is OK. We have put together a PowerPoint presentation that we are going to share with every J.H.S. student this week, in recognition of Suicide Prevention Week, that lets them know where they can find resources, what the risk factors are, and one of those is putting a plan together. Where they can go if they need help or if someone is talking to them, how they can support and help that person. So we hope to bring awareness here to the high school as well.”

The Walk Out of the Darkness event is at 7:00 pm Thursday on the downtown square in Jacksonville. In the event of bad weather, the event will shift to the Central Christian Church at 359 W. College Ave.