Groups to highlight suicide prevention on Sept 28 in Washington, DC, walk

Participants walk to prevent suicide.

Participants walk to prevent suicide at a previous event.

(WASHINGTON, DC – SEPT. 25, 2013) – The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs will speak about the significance of suicide prevention at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Sept. 28 in Washington, DC. Suicide has become an increasingly prevalent issue among service members and veterans account for 20 percent of suicide deaths in the United States.

“Veteran Affairs stands proudly alongside all the brave friends and family members walking to honor the memories of loved ones lost to suicide,” said Dr. Janet Kemp, the Veteran Affairs’ national director for suicide prevention and community engagement. “Community events like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (ASFP) Out of the Darkness Walk shine a light on suicide prevention. It’s up to all of us to understand the warning signs of suicide, and to speak up if we’re concerned about a loved one. Talking about it matters,” she said.

More than 1,000 Washingtonians and supporters from other states are expected to meet at Constitution Gardens and walk past the city’s major monuments to promote awareness about mental disorders and suicide prevention, as well as raise vital funds for scientific research and education programs. Many of the attendees have lost family members or friends to suicide and will wear different colored beads around their necks to commemorate their loved ones.

Walk participant and AFSP volunteer Niki Taylor will wear purple beads in honor of a close friend who committed suicide not long after she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As part of her fundraising efforts and to honor her friend, Taylor recently embarked on a five-day journey to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa. Taylor has raised nearly $4,000 to benefit AFSP and has dedicated herself to increasing awareness about mental illness, which can sometimes contribute to suicide.

“It’s time we reduce the stigma associated with suicide and underlying mental disorders like bipolar disease,” said Taylor. “We need to let people know that treatment is available, there is hope.” According to AFSP, close to 700,000 people make a suicide attempt requiring medical care and more than 38,000 die by suicide in the U.S. every year.

“Despite the troubling statistics, an important goal of the walk is to stress that suicide is 100 percent preventable,” said Robert Gebbia, executive director for AFSP. “We know that the best way to prevent suicide is through early recognition and treatment of the mental disorders that can contribute to suicide, such as depression, bipolar illness, alcohol and substance abuse,” he said. “The walk is about taking a step toward reducing the stigma surrounding these disorders and bringing hope to those who have been affected by suicide.”

Taylor and Dr. Kemp will join AFSP National Capital Area Chapter Chair Steve Iselin, Sergeant First Class Jennifer Powers, Rob Ballister, naval officer and cancer survivor and AFSP National Capital Area Chapter Chair-Elect Vicki Johnson, in formally addressing attendees during the event. All of the speakers will be available for interviews on-site.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy as well as to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide. For more information please visit