On an overcast Saturday, thousands of Western New Yorkers flooded Canalside to raise awareness about preventing suicide during the 13th annual Out of the Darkness walk in Buffalo.
Scattered across the event were small tributes to those who died by suicide. Many donned tee-shirts reading “in loving memory of,” others wrote love letters on chalkboards at a tent labeled memory garden.
Families, friends and those struggling with suicidal thoughts walked the 3.1-mile track to offer a message of hope and remember those they lost on September 7.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention event raised over $250,000 for the organization with over 4,000 participants. Including 13-year-old Angelo DiEnno, who walked alongside his family in remembrance of his father who died by suicide in November a year ago.
“He was a hero,” DiEnno said. “He was always there for everyone when they needed him and he always made people feel better."
Talking about his father still brings tears to Angelo’s mother, who he embraced. The last year has been hard for him and his family, but they’re who help get through the ups and downs.
"Downs? Together, and the ups just to have fun and keep smiling," DiEnno said.
September is national suicide awareness month.
Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease, Control, and Prevention released a report that saw an increase in the suicide rate increased 33 percent nationally between 1999 through 2017, from 10.5 per 100,000 to 14 per 100,000 in 2017.
In New York by 28.8 percent from 1999 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After this walk, the organization wants people to know they are not alone, said Missy Stolfi, area director for the Western and Central New York chapters of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
"We know from statistics, people have been losing, people have been struggling, people have experienced this grief,” Stolfi said. “We want people to come together, we don't want them to be suffering or struggling alone. So it means so much to see all these folks here together in a sense of community."
In addition to those who have lost someone, people who struggled with their own mental health and lived through it came to the event to offer a message of hope.
One of those people was Maddie Radwan, a local musician and volunteer for the Western New York chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
"For the past 10 years, I've dealt with chronic anxiety and depression. I've had self-harm instances, I've been hospitalized,” Radwan said. “This organization really brought out the best in me to kind of help myself conquer those issues."
Before the walk began, Radwan sang the national anthem at the event.
"Music is a really big outlet for people to relax, get their mind off of anything that might have anything to do with not feeling okay,” Radwan said. “It really makes you feel like you're not alone — especially if you're at concerts."
Mid-way through her rendition, she fumbled a lyric, profusely apologizing to the crowd. Stumbling to regain her ground. The crowd, sensing her nervousness, sang that lyric in unison.
She finished the anthem. Offstage, tears were brimming at her eyes. People within the crowd noted how beautiful she sang.
To learn more about how to help click here.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline operates a 24/7 crisis hotline open to anyone looking for support at 1-800-273-8255.
Text HOME to 741741 to have a conversation with a trained crisis counselor.
For crisis support in Spanish call 1-888-628-9454.
Warning signs and factors that increase the likelihood of suicideSuicide is rarely caused by a single factor and is often a combination of factors. Some are listed below. It’s important to remember that even if a few of the factors or warning signs are present, it does not mean suicide is inevitable.
- Substance or alcohol abuse
- Previous attempts at suicide/family history of suicide
- Childhood trauma/family violence, including physical and/or sexual abuse
- Individual saying/believing that he or she is a burden to others
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Family history of depression or other mental health disorders/substance abuse
- Giving away beloved possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family, putting affairs in order or making a will
- Having guns or other firearms in the home
- Being in prison or jail
- Exposure to someone else’s suicidal behavior, whether that’s a family member, peer or media figure
- Medical illness
- Being between the ages of 15-24 years or 60-plus years
What to do If a loved One Exhibits These Warning Signs
- Do not leave the person alone
- Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
- Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255), a free, 24/7 service that can provide suicidal persons or those around them with support, information and local resources.
- Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional