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Suicide prevention, awareness walk is Sunday at JCC

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It takes a whole community to prevent just one person from committing suicide.

That is the approach the Jefferson County Suicide Prevention Coalition and its partners have taken to help reduce the number of suicides in Jefferson County. As part of that, Jefferson Community College’s Health and Wellness Center will host an inaugural “Out of Darkness” public 3-mile walk Sunday to raise awareness and money the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“We will not turn anyone away,” said Kelli Fleming, walk chairwoman.

Mrs. Fleming said she became passionate about suicide prevention and awareness after she realized that although suicide is committed by one person, its ripple effects can flow to hundreds or thousands of people.

“My teenage boys went to school with a girl who committed suicide,” she said. “I watched them cope and (lose) a really good friend. As a mom, it really tore my heart into pieces.”

She and her human services professor, Katy E. Troester-Trate, have promoted the walk on campus to teach young adults there are other ways to cope with life’s stresses. A lot of students may be aware that JCC offers counseling, but may not make the first step to seek help if they are having suicidal thoughts, or even before that.

“I thought if you could change one person’s mind, you’ve done good,” Mrs. Fleming said.

Timothy J. Ruetten, Jefferson County Department of Community Services coordinator of mental health services, said the coalition supports the Out of Darkness walk and is happy to serve as a central hub for suicide prevention and awareness.

“(Before), we were getting gaps in suicide prevention work,” he said. “The coalition serves as that hub to make sure we never have an empty seat in training.”

Meanwhile, Mrs. Fleming said, only about 20 people have preregistered for the walk, but people can show up the day of it. There is no specific entrance fee, but all proceeds will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. Sunday in the McVean Center gymnasium lobby, and the walk will begin at 11 a.m. A closing ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. in the gymnasium.

For more information, call Mrs. Fleming at 558-1362, or visit the walk’s website, www.campuswalks.org.

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