The walk, which was created to honor loved ones who were lost to suicide, raises awareness of mental health education and increases knowledge of both prevention tactics and warning signs of mental illnesses that could lead to suicide.
The walk, which usually takes place in Forest Park, was moved to a different location this year having been denied a permit.
“The surrounding environment of the New York City skyline and the incredible view of the river was thought to be a calm, comforting environment for the upcoming walkers," said Mellisa Rajrup, a volunteer and former participant, in reference to the walk taking place at Astoria Park.
Rajrup initially became involved in the walk because the topic of suicide hit close to home – she had experienced the loss of a close friend.
“I got involved to help bring down the walls of stigma that prevent those from getting the help they need,” she said.
As soon as the foundation sent her an email seeking volunteers in Queens to help organize local events, she jumped on opportunity to be part of the cause.
According to the AFSP, across the United States a person dies from suicide every 15 minutes, meaning that each year 34,000 people take their own lives. Yet suicide is an issue not too many people are familiar with.
“Suicide is something that many are not aware of and sometimes refuse to be aware of; whether it is against their religion or own personal beliefs,” Rajrup said. “But they may choose to think that it doesn’t stop this from occurring or affecting their loved ones.”
Although New York City ranks 45th in general well being and 50th in suicide rates across the United States, with rankings that were developed by a federal survey of behavioral risk factors and the U.S Census Bureau suicide rates, Rajrup believes the topic still is one that needs to be addressed, primarily in Queens.
“I refer especially to Queens, where there is a significant number of immigrants, with beliefs they brought from their own countries," she said. "Suicide attempt are not a very popular topic to be addressed.”
She noted that asking local business owners in Queens if she could leave brochures or hang up posters was “uncomfortable.”
“It brought up a look of astonishment, as if I had completely taken them out of their comfort zone” said Rajrup.
She said that it wasn’t only business owners who did not want to get involved, but also her friends, with responses like, “only those who lost someone will be interested in the cause” or “it isn’t as well known as other causes and walks taking place.”
Rajrup, who feels like these responses show one’s ignorance, is hoping that the stigma around suicide can end and that people who are contemplating the act can feel both safe and comfortable enough to seek help. “Personally, my purpose of this walk is to help people realize just how serious this can be, and to look around at the participants in Astoria Park on November 6 to make a conclusion for themselves, and hopefully shed light on a cause that has been kept in the dark for too long,” she said.
Net proceeds from the Out of the Darkness Community walks benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a non-profit organization that provides research, education and advocacy on suicide and those impacted by suicide.
The walk will take place from noon to 2 p.m. For more information on the walk, visit asfp.donordrive.com.