Suicide Prevention Walk Raises $40,000 for Mental Health

American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) teams up with the National Eating Disorder Associaction (NEDA) and Brian Dagle Foundation for huge success

Attendees enjoy activities and prepare for the walk.

Attendees enjoy activities and prepare for the walk.

OLIVIA BROWN

“Save lives and bring hope.” This is the mission statement of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP). AFSP organized an Out of the Darkness walk at McCook’s Park Saturday, Sep. 24 to raise money for educational programs containing mental health and suicide awareness.

“We do our fundraising so that we can continue to provide programming, that includes educational programs out to the community and to the schools,” Michelle Peters, Area Director for the Connecticut Chapter of AFSP said.

The walk raised over $40,000, helping to reach their goal of $500,000 over the course of five walks – McCooks, Hamden, Woodstock, Westport, and Hartford. The educational programs are free to schools and cater to ages from third grade to college. All their programs are available to be researched on AFSP.org.

“Our organization is the leading funding for suicide prevention research,” Ms. Peters said.

The central idea of the presentations is supporting the mental health of young people and teaching them how to identify warning signs of poor mental health.

Senior Mara Wolff shared an inspiring speech about her struggles with mental illness at the event.

“She saved my life…I have never been more thankful to someone than I am to the operator who spoke with me that day,” Wolff said.

Wolff has struggled with mental health since seventh grade.

Wolff’s parents are immigrants, so they subscribed to a stricter lifestyle for her. She struggled to live up to the pressures to excel which caused constant stress in her life. As a freshman, she developed anorexia. The summer before sophomore year, she was sent to treatment, which she described as “living hell.”

“It was over zoom, so it was definitely more difficult than it had to be. I was alone and struggling through it alone. I didn’t have the physical support team I would have had in a normal treatment facility,” Wolff said.

The turning point of Wolff’s life was the night she hid in her closet contemplating suicide.

This is when she decided to dial the suicide hotline.

The woman helped her feel safe and calm. After that experience, Wolff communicated with her therapist and learned about NEDA’s (National Eating Disorder Association) and AFSP’s
Out of the Darkness walks, which works to build communities for people struggling with suicide in their life.

She now partners with NEDA to write a blog and is planning speeches for other high schools, like Sacred Heart.

One of the biggest sponsors for the walk was the Brian Dagle Foundation. This foundation started in 2014 after Paul and Ann Dagle lost their son, Brian, to suicide while he was in college.

Brian graduated from ELHS in 2010. After his death, it was hard for the Dagles to grieve due to lack of resources, so they decided to create some for others. They started support groups, mainly for others who lost important figures to suicide.

The Dagles heard about AFSP through some of Brian’s friends who joined their walks before.

“They were wonderful as to wanting to hear my story, to support survivors of suicide loss and asking questions how they can best support us,” Ms. Dagle said.

The Dagles have now been a part of the walk committee for five years and almost always surpass their fundraising goals. Mr. Dagle is chair for the Chapter of Connecticut and Ms. Dagle is on the board.

To the Dagles, it is important to offer hope to people who have gone through the same loss they have.

“(Speakers) were able to have a voice with others and by sharing their voice. Hopefully it allows others to share theirs and ask for support and help if they’re struggling,” Ms. Dagle, President of the Brian Dagle Foundation said. Ms. Dagle is confident that the walks help people to heal and bring a
sense of community.

“It was such an amazing day. I’m overwhelmed. It’s just so great how much money we were able to raise,” Ms. Peters said.