About 30 or 40 people came out for the suicide prevention walk held on Sept. 16. Photos by Emily Jaycox

Good turnout for first annual suicide awareness walk

About 40 Ponoka residents came out for the event

A suicide awareness walk on Sept. 16 was well-attended, with many individuals and families coming out (even a few with their dogs) to show support for the cause.

“My goal is to raise awareness around suicide and for people to know they are not alone,” said organizer Brittany Sande, program manager for Ponoka Victim Services (PVS).

“There is a world of people who stand with them.”

The walk was open to the public and saw PVS advocates and board members attend, for a total of about 30 or 40 people.

The group gathered in front of the Ponoka RCMP detachment building and walked north up 53 Ave., down to 50 St. and south to IGA, before heading west past the pool and back to the detachment.

“Everyone there tonight had a reason — some were walking for a family member, friend, coworker who’s life was taken by suicide, and some who seen an importance around the stigma and too support their community,” she said.

“I hope that people see how a community comes together and no one is ever alone.”

Suicide is a very important issue for Sande, and one that’s close to her heart.

Sande has been with PVS for four years, two of which have been as the program manager.

She is also a medic, and has lost two EMS partners (who were also friends) to suicide, due to the emotional and mental impact of being a first responder.

“I see first-hand the impact trauma plays on people in these positions, as well as the everyday stress of life that tolls on people,” said Sande.

“I see a lot of mental health and stigmas in my everyday job, the gaps of service and sometimes the wait times people can experience to talk to someone.”

This is the first time Sande has organized such as event. After being asked by several attendees if the walk would become an annual event, however, Sande was happy to oblige.

“I’m happy to announce this will be a yearly thing, and we hope to grow it every year in participants for the walk to raise awareness.”

Sept. 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide call 811 24 hours a day, or visit www.albertahealthservices.ca/injprev/Page4875.aspx.

READ MORE: Final walk concludes at healing village near Maskwacis

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Photo submitted by Brittany Sande

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