During the past year, the number of individuals taking their own life in the local area has dramatically increased. In response to this influx of suicides, a new task force has been established. The Morgan-Scott Suicide Prevention Coalition was formed last November, and is being chaired by Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Robert Heape.
Since the group’s formation, they have sponsored two major events. A candlelight vigil titled “Community Rally for Healing and Caring” was held in November of 2014. In early August of this year, the group presented the program, Step UP! The workshop focused on how to recognize the warning signs of someone who might be at risk of suicide, and how to prevent the individual from harming his or herself.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, after cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death. In 2014, there were 11 deaths recorded as suicides in Morgan County. Morgan-Scott Suicide Prevention Coalition member Pastor Robin Lyons says the newly formed group aims to educate and offer compassion to the local community in light of the recent tragedies. “The task force is both informational and supportive in nature. We want to be a resource for those that are dancing on that edge, and struggling with stress, hopelessness and despair. We want to get information out about the mental health services available in our community, but we also want to offer various avenues of support for people and families who have gone through this; people who have been rocked by the trauma of suicide,” said Lyons.
And offering support is exactly what the group aims to do on this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day. On Thursday, September 10, the Winchester United Methodist Church will be hosting an Out of Darkness Walk. The walk will start at the church, located at the corner of Walnut and Cherry Street in Winchester.
“The theme of the event is: Walk to Honor Loved Ones, Walk to Save Lives,” shared Lyons. “The idea is to have a walk of remembrance, remembering not just those who have taken their lives in the last year, but people who have experienced this in their lifetime, whether that be 10, 15 or 20 years ago.”
The event, which is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., will begin with a welcome and a time of introduction. The walk will then directly follow. Individuals will be provided a candle for the half mile walk of solidarity. The event will then culminate with a short devotion and the lighting of a Candle of Remembrance for those who have lost their lives to suicide.
Lyons added that if anyone would like to take part in the walk, they need only to show up on the night of the event. While this is the inaugural walk, the group hopes that it will become an annual event, alternating the location between Jacksonville and Winchester. If there are any questions about the Out of Darkness Walk, community members are invited to contact the Winchester United Methodist Church at 217-742-3610.