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Raising awareness: Community gathers for Out of the Darkness Walk

Bluefield Daily Telegraph - 9/15/2019

Sep. 15--BLUEFIELD -- Those impacted by suicide and mental illness gathered to raise mental health awareness at the Mercer County Out of the Darkness Walk, on Saturday.

"Mental health in this area is very stigmatized and we're here to erase that stigma," Brandi Fain, of Child Law Services Inc., said.

The walk, which is sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, seeks to spread awareness of suicide in hopes to reach those who need help. It also allows friends and families affected by suicide grieve together and heal.

"Suicide claims more lives than murder, war, and natural disasters combined," Fain said, "In 2017 West Virginia lost 392 people to suicide."

At the race, guests were encouraged to select beaded necklaces to signify how suicide has affected them. Of the necklace the colors included: teal, for a family member who struggles or has attempted suicide, blue for supporting suicide prevention, green for a personal struggle or attempt, silver for the loss of a fire responder or military personnel, purple for the loss of a relative or friend, orange for the loss of a sibling, gold for the loss of a parent, red for the loss of a spouse or partner, and white for the loss of a child.

"The beads are a conversation starter," Fain said, "People can see each other's beads and support each other."

At the walk, Community Connections, Inc. offered guests free Help and Hope West Virginia merchandise as well as kits to safely dispose of unused medicine. Help and Hope WV seeks to spread awareness of addiction and providing those suffering from it, the help they need.

"These bags are medical disposal kits. They help you dispose of unwanted medicine," Savannah Linkous, Adult Intervention Specialist of Commuity Connections, Inc., said, "All you do is add water and shake it then throw it away."

To avoid improper disposal of medications, the kit ensures that the medication won't be exposed to the water system, by flushing, or to other people, by throwing it away.

"Here we can grow as a community and find support," Fain said of the walk and the connection it provides to the guests.

-- Contact Emily D. Coppola at ecoppola@bdtonline.com

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