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New Mexico is the state with the highest suicide per capita deaths said Robyn Rehbein-Narvaez, a board member and walk organizer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-New Mexico Chapter.
“It’s taking away so many of our people, and most people know somebody who has attempted suicide or lost someone who committed suicide,” she said. “It’s killing our New Mexicans, but it’s absolutely preventable.”
The Las Cruces Out of the Darkness Walk, she said, is an opportunity for people who have been touched by suicide to come together for education and support. Rehbein-Narvaez is a clinical supervisor and registered play therapist-supervisor at a local mental health facility, andshe said it is critical for survivors to know they are supported and not alone.
“This year [on Sept. 19] it was to be our third annual walk,” she said. “However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we have moved the walk to a virtual experience. While the Out of the Darkness Walks in New Mexico are going to look different this year, our mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide has not changed.”
A mental health practitioner since 2003, Rehbein-Narvaez said she works with individuals who are suicidal and has seen the numbers get worse and worse.
“My nephew took his own life at age 27 and that spurred me into more advocacy,” she said. “In February 2018, I lost my nephew to depression and anxiety by the means of suicide. The answer is mental health resources. Typically, they are someone suffering from a mental health issue. What can we do? Meds, therapy, watching for signs, asking the person how they are doing, getting them help and treatment of the mental health issue.”
While Rehbein-Narvaez said she doesn’t have any statistics about how the isolation engendered by the COVID-19 fears has touched suicide rates, she does know of at least two local teenagers who have taken their own lives over the summer.
She said in Las Cruces, high schoolers normally have the opportunity to visit school-based health centers and talk confidentially with a therapist. But now, they can’t go there and receive those services.
“Mental health and suicide prevention are more important than ever,” Rehbein-Narvaez said. “We’re confident that with your help we can reach more people than ever before. Our community has always been the heart of the Out of the Darkness Walks. We realize that nothing can substitute the experience of coming together in person, and we will continue to seek ways in which we can do that safely. Until that time comes, we will use our voices and share our stories virtually to provide hope.”
The New Mexico Out of the Darkness Experience is a real walk this year, she said, but on individual terms. Walkers get to choose their own course, what time they start and who walks next to them (within safe distancing guidelines).
Registration and information are available at www.afsp.org/albuquerque.