First ‘Out of the Darkness Walk’ in Columbus since pandemic, for suicide prevention

Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 11:03 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2023 at 11:59 AM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The morning of Saturday, September 16 was a day full of emotion and hope as people old and young walked in support of suicide prevention.

Over 200 people gathered at the TSYS main campus on 14th street for the “Out of the Darkness Walk” put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

People gather for opening ceremony prior to the start of the walk.
People gather for opening ceremony prior to the start of the walk.(Source: WTVM)

Those who participated walked approximately two miles along the Phenix City and Columbus Riverwalk.

Nathan Ford, the chairperson of walk, explained the meaning of the event.

“A time of remembrance, a time of hope, and a time of support,” he said.

Laurie Clark was a participant who reflected on those she lost.

“I’ve lost so many names on this shirt. From my grandfather, my great grandfather, my best friend, my nephew, and others and it’s just to much.

Vickie Francis also participated in the walk, and she said that she walked for the nephew she lost in November 2022.

“You can feel the support here, and it encourages me to do more,” said Francis.

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson and Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe also attended the opening ceremony before the walk. They showed their support for the purpose of the walk and and encouraged people to talk about mental health and suicide.

Participants also wore different colored beads called “honor beads.” Each color symbolized different reasons each person walked.

Mayor Eddie Lowe and Mayor Skip Henderson speak at event.
Mayor Eddie Lowe and Mayor Skip Henderson speak at event.(Source: WTVM)
The meaning of the colors of the "honor beads."
The meaning of the colors of the "honor beads."(Source: WTVM)

One family at the walk was very emotional as they prepared to walk in in memory of Matthew G. Brooks, a father, brother, on and cousin who they said struggled with anxiety and depression before he took his life.

“I don’t think you ever get closure from something like this because you always wonder could I have done something,” said Brooks cousin James Eldridge. “Matt was just a cousin to me, but him and I were like brothers and so it hurts.

The family encouraged others that there is hope.

“Reach out for help. Remember that God always loves you no matter your struggles or what you’ve done, your past,” Eldridge said. “There’s someone out there that cares about you.”

Although the weather was gloomy, that didn’t stop the community from shining their light and raising awareness. .

“I’m so proud that Columbus and Phenix City came together for the “Out of the Darkness Walk” today,” Ford said after the event was over.

If you missed the walk, you can still donate to AFSP to support suicide prevention, education and support after a loss according to a representative from AFSP. You can click here to donate.

Donations will be open until Dec. 31.

If you or someone you know is struggling and need help, you can call the suicide prevention hotline number at 988.