Mental health, suicide awareness walk planned for Oct. 9 at Thompson Park

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WATERTOWN — A suicide awareness walk is scheduled on Oct. 9 to help shed light on mental health in the north country.

The Out of the Darkness walk will take place at Thompson Park and will be a walk of remembrance, hope and support.

“It’s a way to unite our communities and provide an opportunity to acknowledge the way in which suicide and mental health conditions have affected our lives and the lives of those we love and care about,” said Karen J. Heisig, area director for the Greater Central New York Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Ms. Heisig said suicide rates decreased in 2019 and 2020, the first time decreases were seen in almost 20 years.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic shined a spotlight on areas where services could be improved, such as the availability of telehealth.

The number of people who died by suicide in 2021 won’t be known until the end of this year. Ms. Heisig said these numbers are something to look out for.

“Sometimes after a natural disaster, the mental health piece follows a year or two later,” she said.

She said the impact of the pandemic as well as other national and global events have had a huge impact on people’s mental health, particularly anxiety and depression.

“There’s a lot to be done, and not enough resources out there,” she said. “The more we can approach this from a community perspective and look at it as, ‘Hey, you’re my friend and I recognize that you’re struggling, let’s have a conversation. How can I support you?’ That becomes key.”

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