American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Project Title: Out of the Darkness Community Walks
- Program Representative Interviewed: Cassandra Linkenmeyer, Minnesota Area Director
- Location: National
Program Overview: In an effort to raise awareness and funds to support suicide prevention,
the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) holds Out
of the Darkness Community Walks in all 50 states. Many of those are held in rural areas, and any
community interested in holding a walk can reach out to their state chapter of AFSP to set one up. AFSP will
provide all of the planning and marketing materials required to make the walk happen, as well as a toolkit,
framework, and manual to assist with development and implementation of the walk.
The walks, which first started in the early 2000s, have several purposes. They serve as a fundraising mechanism for suicide prevention programs, but also are a way to develop community connections and to raise public awareness about suicide. Walks are typically five kilometers (5K) in length, but can be tailored to the specific needs and interests of the community. Community walks are typically held in the fall and walks on college and high school campuses are typically held on the spring.
In addition to the Out of the Darkness Walks, ASFP has several other programs and resources that are available to rural communities free of charge to help them with suicide prevention efforts. These include prevention, intervention, and postvention programs. Postvention refers to programs designed to support individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide and to lessen any other negative ramifications of suicide. Prevention programs include talks in schools, colleges, and other community-based settings on a variety of topics, including suicide prevention for specific populations, such as college students, older adults, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, and safety for individuals with firearms. Intervention programs include training on what community members can do during a mental health crisis. Postvention programs include support programs and groups and a peer-to-peer healing conversation program. Beyond those programs, AFSP engages in advocacy and research around best practices for suicide prevention. Rural community members interested in implementing an Out of the Darkness Walk or any other AFSP program can contact their state chapter director to access resources free of charge.