Hundreds ‘walk out of darkness’ to support efforts to combat suicide in Avoyelles Parish

Four cadets from the National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program carried the banner to lead the Avoyelles Parish Walk Out of the Darkness to raise awareness of suicide prevention programs. Approximately 600-800 walkers participated in the 5K (3 mile) event. {Photo by Raymond L. Daye}

 

    Hundreds of people came out  Oct. 8 to honor the memories of loved ones and to support efforts to ensure that other families never have to endure the suffering they have.
   The “Out of the Darkness” Community Walk began at 9 a.m. with activities around the Avoyelles Parish Courthouse in Marksville.
   Several speakers shared their experiences, both as survivors of suicide and in getting through the grief from the loss of a loved one to suicide.
   Dr. L.J. Mayeux, parish coroner, said Avoyelles used to have four to six suicides a year until 2012, when the rate spiked to over 10. The parish has had at least 12 suicides a year since then, prompting Mayeux to declare suicide as an “epidemic” in the parish.
   As of that day, there had been 14 suicides in Avoyelles -- a suicide rate of almost 33 per 100,000 population.
  Based on 2014 statistics -- the latest full-year numbers available -- Wyoming has the highest statewide suicide rate at about 22. The national rate is 12.3 and Louisiana’s rate has climbed to 14.2 -- up from 11.1 in 2005.
   Jackie Bordelon, one of the organizers for the Oct. 8 event, said she was surprised by the turnout.
  “I really didn’t expect that many people,” she said. “The Walk went very well. We plan to make it an annual event.”
  More than $25,000 was raised for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to support efforts to provide information to those in danger of suicide, to raise awareness to detect the signs of possible suicide and to assist friends and family in coping with the grief of losing someone to suicide.
  “We had over 600 registered to walk, and there were many who came that day that had not registered,” Bordelon said.
  Angie Dixon said the organizers thank all of those who came out and “especially those who volunteered to make this event a success.”
  She is aware of at least one girl who told her mother that she has been battling depression for some time and just didn’t know how to tell her. The Walk Out of Darkness gave her the courage to speak up.
  “This parish really needs this,” Dixon said. 
  The Avoyelles Walk Out of the Darkness will probably be about the same time next year but could be held in September, which is designated as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

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