BY DARINA NAIDU, Contributing Writer
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Maggie Edward’s brother and her best friend died by suicide.
That’s why she organizes the SUNY Plattsburgh Out of the Darkness Campus Walk, which this year takes place from 2 to 3 p.m. this Saturday.
The event is designed to raise awareness about suicide and bring in money for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention programs.
This is the fourth year Edwards has chaired the event; her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, also pitches in.
After her brother, Willie, died in 1999, Edwards had been going to a suicide awareness walk in Buffalo with her family.
Organizing the campus walk helped her grow and supported her in her grief.
“It was a huge hurdle for me,” she said. “It’s important to help our students be aware of suicide. It’s not something we should be silent about.”
Edwards said the walk is also a way for people to meet other survivors, connect with them, share their experiences and know that they are not alone in their grief.
About 276 people participated last year, and as of Wednesday, at least 200 people had already registered for this year’s walk, she said.
“We had a few families come from Lake Placid, as well, last year, and my family and friends also come to the walk every year from Buffalo.”
Participants can also make donations on the Suicide Prevention website or before the walk, with cash, check or credit card.
“Our participants increase every year, and I hope we’re able to reach our $7,000 goal,” Edwards said.
‘SUICIDES ON THE RISE’
Participants will be able to buy memory quotes made by survivors, pins, ribbons and memory beads at the walk, as well as raffle tickets for several gift certificates from local shops and restaurants.
“We have always been very supported by the community,” Edwards said. “I think it’s good, because the number of suicides in Clinton County has increased, especially for college students with alcohol and self-medication problems.”
Mary Gillan, a survivor and a member of the Campus Walk Committee, will share the experience about when she lost her son, Justin, to suicide in 2006.
Two of Justin’s friends will also participate.
Edwards’s mother, Monica Bard, will talk about being happy, active and healthy before a Zumba session that is planned to get participants excited for the walk.
A candlelight vigil and a moment of silence will follow Zumba in memory of lost loved ones, and balloons will be released to commemorate the start of the walk.
Participants will go on a 3-mile walk from the Angell College Center down to Broad, Oak, Beaumont and Beekman streets and back to the campus.
The event will end with the raffle drawings and a closing ceremony to thank the organizers and participants.
OUT OF THE DARKNESS
Register for the SUNY Plattsburgh Out of the Darkness Campus Walk at afsp.donordrive.com under SUNY Plattsburgh Campus Walk until noon Friday. Or register between 1 and 2 p.m. in front of Amitié Plaza outside the Angell College Center.
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you're considering suicide, instead get help by calling the following numbers:
For counseling: Clinton County Mental Health, 565-4060. Behavioral Health Services North Adult Clinic, 563-8000 (staffed around the clock). Essex County Mental Health Clinic, 873-3670; after-hour emergencies, (888) 854-3773. In northern Franklin County, around the clock, 483-3261; southern Franklin County, 891-5535.
For emotional crises: The toll-free Clinton County suicide hot line number is (866) 577-3836. Out-of-county calls are accepted but other options are: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-TALK (8255). The Essex County Mental Health Association Hope Line, (800) 440-8074. That last number is staffed 24-7, but the phone system handles limited calls. If there's no answer, hang up and try again.
Or call 911 or go to your closest emergency room. Mary Anne Cox holds a Suicide Survivors Support Group in Plattsburgh the second Wednesday of the month. Register with her ahead of time at 563-1141.