According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person in the United States dies by suicide every 14.2 minutes.
In 2009, the organization reported that suicide claims the lives of more than 36,000 people each year and is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between 18 and 65.
Warwick resident Gail Wayne, who lost her daughter Megan to suicide in 2010, finds these numbers staggering. Megan had just finished her freshman year at Toll Gate High School.
“I pretty much take one day at a time, but our lives have forever changed,” Wayne said of herself and family. “I miss my daughter with every breath I take. It helps to be with other people, but nothing will take away her absence.”
While she said sadness often consumes her, she was looking to pull herself and others “out of the darkness” when she served as the chairperson for Saturday’s Out of the Darkness Walk, an event to raise funds for suicide research and prevention.
While the American Foundation for Suicide created the idea for the walk nationally, communities often organize their own walks.
Saturday’s walk kicked off around 10:25 a.m. at Goddard Memorial State Park. Wayne said the three-mile walk took a little more than an hour.
“It went really well,” she said. “I was a little nervous because it was the first time I put it together myself, but we had about 121 walkers, including 39 people who showed up the day of the walk and registered.”
For Wayne, participating wasn’t easy. She said even planning for it stirred up memories that are difficult to cope with.
“It takes everything I have to get through it, but if by me doing this can save a life or help a family, then it is worth it,” she said.
Wayne said she met two families that had lost loved ones to suicide within the year and they consoled each other.
“I commended them, because it is such a hard thing to do the first year of losing someone,” she said. “We shared stories, cried and hugged. And there were people who came and walked that never lost anyone but just wanted to support the cause, or they are struggling with something personally. They made some friends.”
Also, Wayne said that she has noticed that most people are afraid to talk about suicide. She feels they need to open up more so they can realize it’s more common than they think.
“People need to not be afraid to talk about it,” she said. “Suicide is like a bad word to people and they tend to walk away and don’t want to hear it. It’s a different type of loss and some people don’t understand it unless it’s happened to them. I found out I knew people who lost family members or friends after the loss of my daughter. I am hoping by us talking about it, more awareness will come from it.”
Last year marked the first year Wayne took part in the walk, which was in Lincoln. She rallied 130 of her friends and family and created a team, Megan’s Messengers, that walked in Megan’s memory. Together, they raised more than $5,000.
This year, Megan’s Messengers, along with online contributions, helped raise $6,800 and counting, as donations can be made through the end of the year toward Wayne’s goal of $10,000.
Whether she makes the goal or not, one thing is certain; she will forever hold Megan close to her heart.
“I will always remember how much she cared about others, as well as animals,” said Wayne, who hopes to chair next year’s Warwick walk, as well. “She always tried to make other people happy.”
Wayne is grateful to local businesses that donated products for the day of the walk, including Antonio’s Pizza; Jersey Mike’s Subs; CVS; Dunkin’ Donuts; and Synder Chips.
To make a donation, visit www.outofthedarkness.org. Donations are 100 percent tax deductible. For more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, visit www.afsp.org.