NEWARK — Close to 100 people carrying purple and yellow balloons crossed the overpass over Church Street in Newark on Tuesday evening as the mid-point to the first 5K walk in honor of suicide prevention in Licking County.
Walkers had written messages to or names of suicide victims on the balloons that were carried through Rotary Park to the overpass and back. The balloons were released during a candlelight vigil at the Rotary Pavillion after the walk.
“We’re here to remember those lost,” said Justina Wade, suicide prevention coordinator for Mental Health America of Licking County. “We (also) want to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.”
The annual event was sponsored by Mental Heath America of Licking County, Licking County Suicide Prevention Coalition, Survivors After Suicide Loss Support Group, and Mental Health & Recovery for Licking and Knox Counties.
This is the first time the event included a 5K walk. In past years, participants have walked through downtown Newark with the candlelight vigil at the gazebo on the square. The event was moved to Rotary Park because of the construction downtown, Wade said.
Though donations towards suicide prevention awareness campaigning were accepted, Wade said, “We do not use this as a fundraiser at all.”
Michaela Trawick, president of the Youth Leadership Council of Licking County, said that its especially important for young people to be aware of suicide prevention measures.
“Everyone has been affected by suicide,” Trawick said. “We see it all over the place.”
Trawick, a senior at Newark High School, said that even if her peers do not know someone personally affected by suicide, its impossible to avoid the issue in the news.
At a local level, early last week, a Denison University student’s death was reported a suicide by the Licking County coroner’s office. Wendell Jackson reportedly hanged himself last Monday.
Trawick said it was important for young people to be aware of signs or symptoms of mental illness so that teenagers can seek help for themselves or their friends.
A majority of the 57-member Youth Leadership Council participated in the walk and candlelight vigil Tuesday.
“There are teens out there that are trying to make a difference,” Trawick said.
Wade said that the walk and candlelight vigil is held every September because it is National Suicide Prevention Awareness month.
Found in The Newark Advocate September 9, 2015