For the past 10 years, I have proudly supported the Illinois Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, America’s leading suicide prevention organization, by both fundraising and volunteering. 

This cause is very dear to me, because 20 years ago this month I lost my twin brother, Andrew, to suicide. The devastation our family and friends endured after his loss spurred me to spend many of my free hours the past 10 years raising awareness and funds for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. 

Our upcoming Out of the Darkness Chicagoland Walk is on Saturday, Sept. 23 at Arvey Field in Grant Park. This walk brings thousands to the lakefront in order to raise awareness and funds that will save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. 

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in this country, and in Illinois alone, we lose more than 1,300 individuals to suicide each year. It touches millions of lives — people of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. But the research is clear: suicide is preventable, and the more people who stand up for suicide prevention and mental health, the more lives we can save. 

Funds raised support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and its bold goal to reduce the annual suicide rate in the United States 20 percent by 2025 through research, education, advocacy, and support. 

These walks are truly uplifting experiences, and they grow every year. Local proprietor Keith Brennan of For the Birds in Brookfield also supports AFSP’s mission. 

Mention AFSP when you shop in his store Sept. 11-16, and he will give 20 percent of your pre-tax sale to the foundation. 

I hope others in our community who have been touched by suicide or simply support mental health awareness will join me at the walk next month. This event is worth being a part of. 

Alyssa Relyea