MALONE — Stigma often leads to silence when the issue is suicide.
That, Paula Sansone says, is not the answer.
“The escalated number of attempts and completed suicides recently is very alarming,” she said. “I lost my daughter on May 1, and as hard as it has been to deal with the pain, I understand the urgency and importance needed to raise awareness within our area.”
Sansone is chairing Malone’s first-ever Out of the Darkness Community Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, set for Tuesday.
“We need to educate as many people as we can.”
Her daughter, Jackalyn Marie Boyer, attended Lake Placid Central School from 2007 through 2011 and then moved to Malone this past school year. She also had many friends in the Saranac Lake School District, Sansone said.
“She had an infectious smile and personality,” she said. “She was always singing in the hallways and (singing) happy birthday to her friends. Very few of them knew she was struggling with major depression that included extreme highs followed by extreme lows.
“Recognizing and understanding the signs of depression can help reduce the stigma associated with this mental illness and potentially open the doors for those struggling to speak out for help,” she added.
More than 36,000 people complete suicide every year, of which 90 percent had a diagnosed or undiagnosed mental illness at the time of their death, the foundation says. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens and young adults and the second leading cause of death for college students.
An estimated 1 million Americans attempt suicide annually. New York state ranks fourth in the nation among 10- through 24-year-olds. One in 10 New York state 10th-graders will attempt suicide this year.
Out of the Darkness has worked hard to reduce those numbers. In 2011, more than 90,000 walkers across the United States took steps to help save lives by taking part in one of the 240 community walks, including one in Lake Placid. Participants raised more than $6.5 million to support a better understanding of suicide and its prevention through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
“The money we raise supports suicide prevention efforts across the Adirondacks,” Sansone said. “It educates students, families and teachers to recognize the signs of mental illness and suicide risk and encourages help-seeking behaviors.
“Half of the money we raise will go back into the community to purchase DVDs and educational tools for the Malone middle and high schools’ students and teachers,” she added.
Funds raised also support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Interactive Screening Program, a web-based screening tool that allows colleges to identify at-risk students who are struggling with mental illness and who may be in need of help.
A common myth of suicide is that it happens without warning. In truth, there are almost always warning signs, but others do not recognize them or do not know what to do if they do realize a person feels suicidal.
Some typical warnings include feelings of hopelessness or helplessness, talking or writing about suicide, feelings of strong anger or rage or feeling trapped, and experiencing dramatic mood changes or changes in personality.
Money from the Out of the Darkness walk also goes toward training for additional volunteers to bring survivor support, outreach and resources to more communities across the nation.
Tuesday’s event begins at 4 p.m. with dinner and dessert at Sansone’s Restaurant, featuring a chicken parmigiana meal for $10 per person and cookie dough and strawberry sundaes for $3. All money raised will go directly to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The restaurant will close at 7 p.m., as all the staff will be walking.
Registration for the walk, at the Franklin County Fairgrounds, begins at 4 p.m. and will also include education on teenage depression, information on new treatment research, programs for survivors of suicide and public-awareness campaigns to alert families and friends to the warning signs of suicide.
The walk starts at 7 p.m. Participants will walk to Arsenal Green Gazebo to hear words from guest speakers Jerry Griffin and Dr. Nadine Case, followed by a short informational DVD.
As of Friday, the Malone walk had already raised $10,988 with 164 participants registered thus far.
HOW TO HELP
Make online donations to the Malone Out of the Darkness Community Walk at www.outofthedarkness.org. Find the Malone walk under New York state events. Register online for the event until noon Tuesday or at the event itself. Donations will be accepted on the website through Dec. 31. For more information, contact Paula Sansone at email@example.com.