PITTSBURG — Saturday’s “walk for hope” brought people together to share their experiences with suicide.

To Write Love On Her Arms partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to bring its annual Out of the Darkness Walk to Pittsburg State University Saturday at the Robert W. Plaster Center.

Donations were doubled to $1,400 this year. All proceeds go to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention where it will be spent on research on the causes of suicide.

Walk Coordinator Caitlin Martin said their goal was to bring people together to talk about their stories and bring hope.

“Today we want to connect people to remember those they have lost to suicide,” Martin said. “We want to bring hope and love to those who need it to let them know there is someone who cares, and that there is help.”

Campus Outreach Coordinator with the American Foundation of the Greater Kansas Chapter with AFSP Melissa Kurtenbach said that the walk was not just for those who have lost someone to suicide but for those who need hope.

“This walk is not just for those who lost someone to suicide, but also for those who have either attempted suicide in the past or are currently experiencing a mental illness.”

There were beads colored white, red, gold, orange, purple, silver, green, blue and teal, each signifying how suicide has effected a person’s life. Participants chose the colors which represent their experience.

Member of TWLOHA Kylie Carnahan wore four strands of beads, one of silver— which means she lost someone who was in the military, blue — for supporting the cause, teal — lived experience and lastly, green — she has struggled personally.

“Not many people want to talk about suicide,” Carnahan said. “We encourage them to talk about their experience, the beads help them do that.”

TWLOHA member Andrea Kratochvil shared her story of self-harm when she was a teenager. She lost friends over it and her parents were angry. Her family found the best solution is to talk and have social support and therapy.

Kratochvil said that it is scary to share these stories, but at an event like today’s everyone can have an honest open conversation about it.

“We must destigmatize suicide and start talking about it,” Kratochvil said. “Things get dangerous when people are left alone with these thoughts.

“It is possible to overcome these things, seek help and social support. Spread the word there is hope and you do have the ability to overcome.”

There are resources for those who know or are dealing with self-harm thoughts. For more information on suicide and to find resources go to afsp.org to learn more.  

According to Barb Mares Chairperson for the Greater Kansas Chapter of AFSP

this is the first step to preventing suicide and sharing it with the community. "As long as we reach one person, two, that is all that matters. At least one life has been saved."

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP.