Onslow County hosted its 5th annual Out of the Darkness Walk at Riverwalk Crossing Park in Jacksonville, Oct 5.

Walkers in the Out of the Darkness Walks join the effort with hundreds of thousands of people to raise awareness and funds that allow the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy and support survivors of suicide loss.

With Over 600 walkers and a number of dogs, the event kicked off with a record number of participants.

“We have a desperate need in our community for suicide prevention and awareness,” said Amy Sullivan, walk chairperson and event volunteer. “22 veterans a day commit suicide. With all the veterans, service members and their families in this community, we have to stay vigilant.”

The Out of the Darkness walk was brought to Onslow County five years ago by a local mother who lost her son to suicide, and has been growing ever since. Walkers came from far and wide to participate.

“I know what it’s like to feel hopeless,” said David Murphy, former Marine and event participant. “I came here because I want to show people there is always hope. Sometimes people just need a little push or support. I had that when I needed it and I hope to be able to help someone else the same way.”

Several mental health providers were on site to distribute information and help raise awareness.

“It is important to address all aspects of mental health,” said Dane Yates, pastor of Faith Covenant Church. “We are trying to get a recovery house open in Sneads Ferry. It will help with sobriety goals but also will give mental health support for the first six months to a year following. We hope to help people attain freedom from their addictions.”

World Mental Health Day is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide.

“It is important that we come together as a community,” Sullivan said. “If we don’t support one another, we will keep losing people. We have to support one another. We have to stand united.”