Many people hear about suicide but never think it may affect them personally. In March 2014, Jeannette Sanchez lost her brother, Jorge, 21, when he took his own life, and everything in her life changed.
“When it happened, my [other] brother was only 10 years old,” Sanchez said. “So we were looking for resources to help us with coping, and explaining to my younger brother what happened.”
That search eventually led them to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, Sanchez said.
The AFSP set the family up with therapy sessions for Jeanette’s younger brother, and also brought up the idea of them participating in one of their community-based “Out of the Darkness” walks held nationwide. The events raise awareness and funds, allowing the AFSP to invest in research, create educational programs, influence public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss.
The Sanchez family participated in their first walk down by the Jersey Shore, six months after Jorge’s passing.
“It was a really great experience to be with people who have gone through the same [things], who understand the pain, and to not feel alone,” Sanchez said.
After returning, Sanchez and her parents discussed bringing a similar walk to North Bergen, since there were not many suicide prevention resources available in the area.
So they contacted AFSP again, and they held their first local walk in Braddock Park in 2015. Now an annual event, the fourth township walk is set for the park on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. Since the first walk, the family has raised over $58,000 for the cause, and has had over 1,000 participants. Local elected officials have also lent their support.
“To our surprise, people came,” Sanchez said of the inaugural event. “We thought it would just be our family. But we had over 230 participants, all different people with all different situations, ages, backgrounds, races, to share their grief and be a part of something bigger. The outpouring of community support has risen.”
“Our goal is just to start the conversation.” – Jeannette Sanchez
It would be natural to assume the Sanchez family has organized the walk to honor Jorge. But their participation goes beyond that, and is aimed at saving more lives from suicide.
“Our goal is just to start the conversation,” Sanchez said. “I think my mom and I have done a good job of that.”
And people have taken notice. “We’ve received phone calls from people, just looking to say, ‘Hey, do you know who I can call? My son seems a bit depressed and I’m scared that he’ll do something. Do you have a phone number for me to call?’”
Those who wish to register for the walk can do so at https://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donordrive.event&eventID=5490.
Suicide by the numbers
According to the AFSP, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between 15 and 64 in the U.S. Someone in the country dies by suicide every 12.3 minutes. Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder at the time of their death, the organization says.
If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, you are urged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org