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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid