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Walkers Sunday at Wharton Field House remember loved ones who died from suicide

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People walked to promote suicide awareness and prevention Sunday in Moline

More than 100 people attended the Out of the Darkness Quad Cities Walk on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. The event was meant to heighten awareness of suicide and what can be done to help prevent it. The participants walked around the Browning Field outdoor track next to Wharton Field House in Moline to remember their loved ones.

Each message, each picture and each step Sunday afternoon at Moline’s Wharton Field House was a reminder of someone who had died because of suicide or a hope that someone else won't die because of it in the future.

More than 100 people attended the Out of the Darkness Quad Cities Walk, an event meant to heighten awareness of suicide and what can be done to help prevent it. They walked around the outside track at neighboring Browning Field to remember their loved ones.

Many of those people wore shirts with a panel that read "I’m walking for:" with a space for a name. In those spaces they had written the name of someone who had died.

"We're in a group here where we can all discuss and talk about our loved ones," Val Rumler, who heads the organizational efforts for the Quad-Cities event, told the attendees just before the walk.

Her 17-year-old grandson, she told them, committed suicide in 2015.

"I just want you to take just a moment here, take a minute, to think about the attributes the qualities, what was wonderful about the people that you're here remembering and honoring," Michael Bushman, part of the board for the Illinois chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said to the crowd before the walk.

Bushman told the attendees to think of how much better the world would be if those people were still in it. By attending the event, people were helping to save others who have similar attributes.

Near the track, organizers had placed displays, including two bulletin boards.

On one, people had taped messages for those they were remembering. Those messages were written on scraps of white, yellow, pink or blue paper. There were a dozen variations of "I love you" or "I miss you" written on them.

The other board had pictures of people who had died.

2022 is an important year for mental health and prevention of suicide because a new hotline number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 988, was launched in July, Bushman said. It's far easier to remember than the original, more traditional number.

"The first month, we saw a 45% increase in the number of calls to the lifeline," Bushman said.

The call wait times have also gone down, he said.

Bushman says he participates in the walks because he's struggled with depression off and on throughout his life and with suicidal thoughts in high school.

He was able to find the self-care techniques and the support of family, friends and others that helped him stay in a good place, he said.

"Just kind of through luck and some helpful people, I made it through that," he said.

More information, including ways to help or to get help, can be found at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website, https://afsp.org/.

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