Here we are in March, that time of year when the holidays are behind us and we hunker down, surviving winter and longing for spring. By now many of us have lists somewhere about what we want to do to make this year count in our lives—move our careers forward, manage our time better, improve our health, connect with friends more, perhaps contribute to the community. In other words, we want to do something that matters, so we don’t get to the end of 2019 and think, “Where did the year go, and why don’t I have anything to show for it?”
I want to bring to your attention an opportunity to do something that makes a difference in our community. Last June I wrote about the loss by suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain only days apart. Celebrities who struggle with mental health highlight the reality that anyone can—and so many people do. Here at Aspire Health Alliance we are vigilant for opportunities to spread a message of help and hope. This June, as the one-year anniversaries come of the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain—and thousands more whose names did not make the news—we have an opportunity for action.
Kevin Cannon, a psychology doctoral intern with AHA with a personal experience of loss of a loved one to suicide, has a message and an invitation to share with all of us. I hope you’ll take time to read it, reach out for more information if you have questions, and plan for how you can look back on the Out of Darkness Overnight Walk as something you participated in during 2019 that mattered in our community. Here’s Kevin:
This June I will be taking a stand against suicide by participating in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Overnight walk in Boston. This will be my third Overnight walk and I cannot overstate how amazing and inspiring this experience is. The Overnight walk is a 16-mile walk from dusk until dawn across the city of Boston that benefits the AFSP in its work funding scientific research, educating the public about mental health and suicide prevention, advocating for public policies, and supporting survivors of suicide loss. With more than 45,000 lives lost each year in the U.S. and over one million worldwide, the importance of AFSP’s work has never been greater or more urgent. As a personal attestation to the work of AFSP, I can tell you the support of the organization, in the services they provide for survivors of suicide and the community of love and support present at their events (and especially at the Overnight Walk) has been instrumental in coping with my own grief and loss after the loss of a loved one to suicide in 2009.
In the past, I have walked as an independent walker, and this year I am hoping to lead a team of walkers. To this end, I have created the Aspire Health Alliance team and am asking you to join me and your AHA colleagues to take a stand against suicide and raise awareness, as well as to spend a night walking together and getting to know one another beyond our day-to-day clinical work. With your help, our team can make a real difference in the fight against suicide and mental illness.
The walk itself starts June 22nd and ends June 23rd in Government Center with a protected and policed route extending across Boston. There are “pit stops” all along the route with bathrooms, refreshments, and food (free if you are a walker!). A meal is served at the halfway mark. The end of the route is illuminated by luminaria dedicated by walkers and supporters to loved ones who have been lost to suicide. Should you wish to register as a walker, there is a minimum fundraising goal of $1,000 (or $700 if you are a student). This can seem really daunting, but I assure you, having done this twice before, it is definitely doable. One of the bonuses of walking as a team is that once one person meets their fundraising goal they can continue fundraising for the team and donors can elect to donate to team members who are still working to meet their minimum.
If you are not able to join us at the walk, I hope you will consider supporting the Aspire Health Alliance team with a donation. Any contribution helps the work of AFSP, with nearly 85% of donations going straight to AFSP programs and it is 100% tax-deductible.
I encourage you to go to the AFSP Overnight webpage to learn more.
If you wish to join the AHA team please navigate to the team page at https://www.theovernight.org/team/aspire and click “Join Our Team.” From there it will have you register as a walker. If you have any questions about the Out of the Darkness Overnight or AFSP in general, please feel free to contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org or you can message me at 617-689-1858.
Kevin Cannon, M.A.
Doctoral Psychology Intern
Aspire Health Alliance