Kris Ellsworth, co-chairwoman of the Las Vegas Out of the Darkness Community Walk, said she got involved with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention after her uncle died 12 years ago.
“I was really close to him,” said Ellsworth, one of hundreds of people who gathered April 6 for the walk at Craig Ranch Regional Park. “He was only six years older than me — like a brother. He went on all of our family vacations with us. I have friends who struggle — a niece who struggles — so I know that mental health is a real issue. When your brain is sick, it needs help just like everything else.”
The Las Vegas walk is one of more than 550 Out of the Darkness overnight, community and campus walks being held nationwide this year, said co-chairwoman Karen Wall. The local group has raised over $80,000 of its $100,000 goal for the walk and is still accepting donations.
The three-hour event featured a performance, a raffle, a silent auction and an area dedicated to people who have died by suicide. Funds raised support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s education and support programs and its goal to reduce the annual U.S. rate of suicide 20 percent by 2025, Wall said.
Wall, a Centennial Hills resident, said she lost her husband to suicide in 2007. His death fueled her dedication to suicide prevention, and she has served as the walk’s co-chairwoman for about three years.
“I’ve learned that the brain is an organ, and many of the people who die by suicide are struggling mentally,” she said. “We want to encourage people to get help if something is going on with their brain and want them to know that it’s OK and they’re strong if they do that.”
Wall said that suicide is preventable; people just need to learn which tools to use.
“People need to know it’s OK to go on this journey. I’ve personally learned a lot about the guilt I was left with, and now I can help others,” she said. “With this fundraising effort, we’re able to not only spread awareness through the walk, but also generate funds to go into research to understand the brain better.”
How to help
How to get help
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. People may also use the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.