About 2,000 runners, walkers and volunteers raised awareness and more than $250,000 for suicide prevention at the 16th annual Alive & Running 5K in Westchester on Sunday.
Memorial banners and quilts of people who died by suicidedecorated the poignant but lifeaffirming event for the Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center. Many runners wore bibs on their backs with the names of loved ones lost to suicide. Survivors holding white carnations, a symbol of hope, wrote messages about loved ones on memory boards posted near the registration area.
“Silence shouldn’t surround us when loved ones die by suicide, but the stigma is so great that we often stop talking about them,” said Dr. Kita Curry, Didi Hirsch’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Regardless of how they died, they had lives worth celebrating and this event gives their family and friends a chance to do that.”
The family-friendly event, which included a rousing Taiko drumming performance and an EXPO with balloon artists and Snow-Cones, featured an appearance by Tom Kenny, the actor who does the voices of SpongeBob Squarepants, Rabbit in Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh,” and Ice King in Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time.” Kenny, who emceed the Kiddie-K (1K) that followed the run, urged the young runners to tell a grown-up when they feel sad and not to keep their feelings to themselves.
Student volunteers with the Redondo Junior High ROTC, Garfield High School and Students Run L.A. helped register runners and distributed blue plastic bracelets with the number of the CrisisLine. Before and after the race several people who have lost family members to suicide came on stage and shared stories of loss, healing and hope. One survivor, musician Randy Coleman, performed “Here Comes the Sun” on his guitar.
Each year, more Americans die by suicide than homicide or car accidents. While most people who die by suicide are middle-aged, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24. Although suicide rates in America have risen in recent years, suicide is almost always preventable.
“We’ve come a long way in opening a dialogue about suicide, but we still have a long way to go,” said Dr. Curry. “If we all learn the warning signs and how to respond, we can save lives.”
Didi Hirsch is nationally recognized for its Suicide Prevention Center and mental health and substance abuse services. It operates a 24-hour English/Spanish Crisis Line with evening coverage in Korean and Vietnamese, as well as crisis chat and text services to help people who are in distress or worried about someone else. Last year, Didi Hirsch’s crisis counselors answered more than 55,000 calls, chats and texts.
The Suicide Prevention Center also trains and educates more than 28,000 people in schools, churches, businesses, law enforcement and civic groups each year. It provides follow-up care for callers at high risk of suicide and for people hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or attempts. It partners with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Crisis Response Team by providing immediate support at the scene of a suicide and is one of five centers in the nation that takes calls for the Disaster Distress Helpline.
For more information and to support Alive and Running, visit www.aliveandrunning.org.
Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services transforms lives by providing quality mental health care and substance abuse services in communities where stigma or poverty limits access. From 11 locations and 90 schools throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties, Didi Hirsch helps more than 78,000 children and adults each year, offering services that include outpatient care, crisis residential treatment, wellness programs and suicide prevention services. Persons interested can learn more at http://www.didihirsch.org/.
Three Ways to Save a Life:
- Learn the warning signs
– Threatening or planning
– Giving away possessions
– Making out wills
– Despairing texts or posts
– Feelings of failure or shame
– Major depression
– Avoiding friends
– Risky behaviors (drugs/alcohol/unsafe driving)
- Support a friend in crisis
– Listen without criticism
– Take threats seriously
– Tell them you care
– Seek professional help
– Remove access to means of suicide
– Inform family/friends
- Reach out for help
– Call 911 if you or someone you know is at immediate risk
– Call the 24/7 CrisisLine at 877-727-4747