WSW: Suicide Prevention Walk Shares Hope, Resources

Sep 10, 2014

Gryphon Place holds its first Suicide Prevention Walk on Saturday, Sept. 13, to generate awareness about mental health issues.
Credit Credit: Gryphon Place

One of Kalamazoo's most respected and longtime go-to agencies serving people in emotional pain holds a Suicide Prevention Walk this Saturday, Sept. 13th -- its first -- in hopes of sending a message of hope to the community, says Gryphon Place's assistant director.

Lacee Lyons says Marcicela Alcala, who became executive director of Gryphon Place in January, expects that the 45-year-old nonprofit organization will hold the 5K walk annually as a vehicle to regularly bring public attention to the issue of suicide and provide support for survivors. It is timed to coincide with the end of National Suicide Prevention Week.

"We have to start to work through some of the stigma associated with mental illness and with asking for help, because asking for help is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for our friends who are struggling," says Lyons, noting that people need to treat depression like any other of their medical problems and get it checked out. 

The need for public awareness becomes clearer when one examines the numbers. According to Gryphon Place Assistant Director Lacee Lyons, who previously headed the group's suicide prevention education for about eight years, roughly 840 to 960 of the approximately 6,000 crisis calls that Gryphon Place fields each year are suicide-related.  

Nationally, suicide ranks as the 10th leading cause of death, reports the American Foundation on Suicide Prevention using the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. Middle-aged people are the most vulnerable. Specifically, the 45-to-64 age group has the highest suicide rate. Those aged 85 and older trail not too far behind with the second highest rate.

Gryphon Place officials hope Saturday's Suicide Prevention Walk and the media coverage it has garnered will heighten awareness. It will be held Saturday in Bronson Park in downtown Kalamazoo. Individuals may register up until the day of the event for $25. On-site registration opens at 8 a.m., with the walk beginning at 9 a.m. Lyons says the hope is that attendees stop by the various booths there to get information about suicide prevention, and where to go for help.

While someone might not be suicidal themselves, they could encounter someone who is and knowing the warning signs and how to help is invaluable, Lyons says.  In fact, she adds, that's exactly the kind of skills that Gryphon Place teaches local middle-school and high-school students through its outreach classes called The Gatekeeper Program, offered for more than 25 years.

Founded in 1970, Gryphon Place works with people in crisis and conflict, providing dispute resolution and mediation services, a suicide survivors' group and more. But it is probably best known for its 24-hour help line. Lyons says the Suicide Prevention Walk will help raise funds for these and other Gryphon programs through walker registration fees, corporation sponsorships and donations.

According to reportingonsuicide.org, some warning signs of suicide are: 

  • Talking about wanting to die, being a burden to others, feeling hopeless, having no purpose, feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself 
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage and talking about revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly

If you or someone you know is in exhibiting these signs, Lyons suggests calling the Gryphon Place helpline at (269) 381-4357 (HELP). Another resource is the 24-hour, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

Non-emergency calls can be directed to Gryphon Place's main line at (269) 381-1510.