A large crowd of those affected by suicide came out to show their support for Ponoka’s Second Annual Suicide Prevention Walk on Thursday, Sept. 16.
The group of an estimated 200 people met outside of the Ponoka RCMP detachment before heading out, a significant increase from the first event last year, which saw 30 or 40 people come out.
Some participants carried signs or wore matching coloured shirts in memory of someone who they’d lost.
“My heart is absolutely full of love seeing the support from the Ponoka community and all who came out and walked last night,” said Brittany Sande, organizer of the walk and program manager for Ponoka Victim Services.
Some of the participants were Victim Services advocates. Victim Services provided the water for the walk.
“The last year has been a challenging one and we are not in the clear yet,” said Sande.
“This past year we have seen more people affected by mental health-related calls which included suicide in a variety of age ranges.”
The walk raised funds in memory of a Ponoka youth who completed suicide in May, 2021. The $4,000 raised will go towards helping young people play hockey.
A nine-year-old boy carried a sign saying: “I wear teal and purple for my hero my Papa.”
Suicide prevention is a cause that is near and dear to Sande’s heart.
“Suicide has always been apart of my life due to the work I do. When loosing two of my medic partners in 2019, I knew there was more I could do.”
She says suicide is something that affects most people, in one way or other, and some point in their lives.
“The walk just showed how many people came out to walk for someone they love,” she said.
“As I navigate this journey I have learned one thing: Generally when someone completes suicide, no one saw it coming. Suicide ideations, attempts, and death affect us all and can be hard to talk about with many emotions and stigmas attached.
“Together we can help.”
Sande says to remember the ‘REACH’ principle: Recognize, Engage, Ask, Connect and Heal.
“If you suspect a loved one is struggling with their mental health, connect with them and talk.”
If you need additional support or want more information for agencies in the area that can assist you in helping your friends and loved ones please contact HealthLink at 811 or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642. Call 911 if there is an immediate danger.
“We hope to see you next year for the Third Annual Suicide Prevention Walk,” said Sande.