News / Health

As Days Grow Shorter, Out of Darkness Groups Walk to Prevent Depression, Suicide

In the United States, about 20 million people are diagnosed every year with clinical depression, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.In the United States, about 20 million people are diagnosed every year with clinical depression, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
x
In the United States, about 20 million people are diagnosed every year with clinical depression, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
In the United States, about 20 million people are diagnosed every year with clinical depression, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Faiza Elmasry
Steve Iselin served in the Navy for 20 years. He retired 13 years ago, and started looking for another job. That’s also when he began feeling despair.

“I had a great sense of dread every day. Agony is another word that comes to mind," he said. "I didn’t want to do anything that I would normally like to do. I had no interest in seeing other people. I actually got a job, but after one week I quit my job because I was telling myself I couldn’t do it. I had no self-confidence. Anything I did was hard. Every decision I had to make was just impossible, including what would I wear that day or what would I eat for lunch.”
 
Iselin was suffering from depression, which is very different from being sad or having a bad day.

“In the U.S., about 20 million people are diagnosed every year with clinical depression," said Bob Gebbia, who heads the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. "It is something that could be a combination of genetic influences, changes in the chemistry of our brain, but also it can be influenced by external environmental factors. You may be somewhat prone to depression, but may not have the kinds of experiences in life that bring it out. Let's say you lose your job, get divorced, [suffer] a loss of someone.”
 
Iselin was fortunate his wife recognized the symptoms of depression and helped him get the professional help he needed to manage it. Unfortunately, that was not the case with his nephew, who suffered from depression a few years later. The condition went undiagnosed and he eventually committed suicide.

“He went from being a healthy, happy 27 year old to being dead in about six weeks,” Iselin said.

A year after his nephew’s death, Iselin visited his brother in San Francisco, where he learned about the Out of the Darkness Walk organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Both men took part in the event.

“That was the first day my brother realized that maybe his son’s death wasn’t his fault," Iselin said. "Because there were over 2,000 people at that walk, he saw that suicide was affecting so many people, that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in this country, and oftentimes there's a mental illness that underlies the suicide.”
 
Since then, Iselin has volunteered with the AFSP, organizing similar walks in his neighborhood.

“I’ve done seven community walks," he said. "We had 500 people participate [at the most recent walk]. We raised $65,000 for the cause.”

Sheri Cole, co-chair of the Out of the Darkness Walks in Colorado, lost her 16-year-old son, David, to depression almost four years ago.

“I felt that something wasn’t quite right with David, but I had family and friends tell me, 'That's just normal teenage hormones,'" she said. "Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Once I learned that suicide is the second leading cause of death of young people in Colorado, I was astonished and I felt like I needed to do something to help his friends.”
 
Volunteers like Cole and Iselin are organizing more than 300 walks across the nation this season and each one will include some sort of remembrance activity.

“Sometimes it’s a memory wall where they can post photos or sign a banner with a message to a loved one," said Nicole Dolan, manager of the Foundation's walks."We have different activities which vary by event. Some events will have speakers, whether it's someone telling their personal story, whether it’s an activist or advocate or a local TV or radio personality. Sometimes there are family activities and food and refreshments.”
 
While AFSP volunteers are most active around this time of year organizing the walks, they work all year as suicide prevention advocates.

“What we do is provide them with the information about legislation, for instance, both within the states and federally out of Washington, that they can advocate for," foundation director Gebbia said. "All kinds of policies that could really help, for example, we know that we need to advocate for more funding through the National Institute of Health for suicide research, so we have better interventions and better treatments.”

Talking, walking and advocating, he says, make depression and suicide a visible cause, fight the stigma and help save lives.

You May Like

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Works to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Smithsonian senior research botanist Vicki Funk says ultimate goal is 'trying to get one-half of the diversity of plant life on Earth at the genus level in two years' More

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: AFSP DC from: Washington, DC
September 25, 2013 10:15 AM
Thank you Steve for sharing your story, and for working to transform others lives on a daily basis.

We appreciate you opening the Washington, DC, Out of the Darkness Community Walk 2013 this coming Saturday, September 28.

Join us! Walk with us to save lives. http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2206

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs