Walk to raise awareness, funds for suicide prevention

The facts about suicide in the United States are sobering, if not alarming. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 25to 34-year-olds, and men take their own lives nearly four times as often as women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 33,000 suicides occur each year in the U.S., which means that every 16 minutes someone dies by their own hand.

For Agoura resident Michael Matthew, the national statistic has a face. His brother, Dr. Brian Matthew, took his own life in 2004, and ever since that day Matthew has worked to raise awareness about the risk of suicide and how to prevent it.

Matthew is again taking his message to the streets by participating in the fifth annual Out of the Darkness 5K community walk on Sat., Oct. 3 at Constitution Park in Camarillo from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The walk, Matthew said, is part of a yearly campaign to raise awareness about the national tragedy of suicide.

“Suicide is a national health problem that takes an enormous toll on families, friends, coworkers, schools and the entire community,” Matthew said. “Sadly, every minute of every day, someone attempts to take their own life, and every 16 minutes someone dies by suicide.”

Matthew will walk in memory of his brother who, after a lengthy battle with depression and bipolar disorder, killed himself rather than seek mental health services.

Matthew had a difficult time accepting that his brother, an emergency room physician, could possibly be at risk for suicide. After all, who more than doctors should recognize symptoms of depression, he thought. But healthcare workers are more likely to take their own lives than seek medical treatment because they fear the stigma of mental illness will cost them their jobs, Matthew said. Police officers and firefighters are also at a higher risk for suicide.

The stats
According to a fact sheet from the CDC:

•Men account for 79 percent of suicides in the U.S., yet two to three times more women attempt suicide.

•Men 75 years or older are at greater risk for suicide—the rate of death by suicide in this age group is 35.7 per 100,000.

•Men most often will use a firearm (56 percent), while women are more likely to choose poison to end their lives (40 percent).

•Among young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, there are about 100 to 200 suicide attempts for every completed suicide.

•In 2007, 14.5 percent of U.S. high school students reported seriously considering committing suicide over the past 12 months— 6.9 percent attempted suicide during the same period.

•One-third of those who died from suicide tested positive for alcohol; nearly 1 in 5 tested positive for opiates including heroin and painkillers.

The walk

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is conducting the Out of the Darkness Community Walk to raise awareness and money for the prevention of suicide through education and better healthcare. Portions of the funds raised will support the association’s distribution of the film “More Than Sad: Teen Depression” to area high schools. The film, Matthew said, will educate teens about depression and treatment options.

To learn more about the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, visit the website www .outofthedarkness.org. For more information about the film, visit www.morethansad.org.

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