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Out of the Darkness

Las Cruces walk will raise awareness about suicide prevention

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LAS CRUCES - Las Cruces will be the fourth city in New Mexico (along with Albuquerque, Clovis and Farmington) to hold an Out of the Darkness Walk to prevent suicide in September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month.

The Las Cruces walk will be Saturday, Sept. 21, at Young Park, said coordinator Robyn Renbein. Renbein started the Las Cruces walk in 2018 after the suicide of her 27-year-old nephew.

Her personal recovery from his death included exploring ways to prevent suicide, Renbein said. She came across the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) website and asked for donations to benefit its research and other programs in lieu of flowers in memory of her nephew. She also learned about the more than 550 Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walks going on across the country and decided to start one in Las Cruces.

That first-ever Las Cruces walk drew more than 650 walkers, Renbein said, including about 200 high school students. “It was tremendous,” she said. “It was a beautiful opportunity for our community to come together.”

Suicide “is preventable,” said Renbein, who is a Las Cruces therapist specializing in trauma. Prevention “starts way before the first attempt ever happens,” she said, even before the first thought of suicide enters a person’s mind.

Suicide prevention should be part of early childhood education and continue through elementary, middle and high school as students are taught healthy behaviors and coping techniques, Renbein said, as they learn about bullying, child abuse and alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

“We have to be honest about suicide,” she said. That means talking openly about it and having a “real conversation” with anyone you think may be having suicidal thoughts.

“Don’t be afraid to talk about it,” Renbein said. But remember to be compassionate and helpful rather than negative, she said. Avoid comments like, “You have nothing to be sad about,” or “There are so many people worse off than you.” Renbein said.

How we talk about suicide is also important, she said. For example, the term “committed suicide” connotes a criminal act. The appropriate language is “death by suicide,” Renbein said. Jokes about suicide and the use of catch phrases like “Kill me now,” are also not appropriate, she said.

AFSP and its New Mexico chapter (Renbein is a board member) have information about how to help someone considering suicide, including who to call depending on the level of threat, she said.

Last year’s Las Cruces walk raised more than $19,000, Renbein said. Half that money went to AFSP to support its research and other programming. The other half stayed in New Mexico, benefiting local suicide prevention efforts, i like an AFSP program called “More than Sad” for Las Cruces middle and high school students. The program “teaches teenagers to recognize the signs of depression in themselves and others, challenges the stigma surrounding depression and demystifies the treatment process,” AFSP said. It also helps parents and teachers recognize those signs and teaches them how to begin conversations with their children and students about mental health issues and where to go for help.

This year’s walk will include a silent auction and a bead ceremony around the lake at Young Park, as strings of different-colored beads are handed out to parents who have lost a child to suicide (white), those who have lost a spouse or partner (red), a parent (yellow), a sibling (orange), a relative or friend (purple) or a first responder or member of the military (silver); as well as to someone having a personal struggle with suicide or who has attempted it (green), someone supporting another person who has attempted suicide or is struggling with it (teal) and anyone supporting suicide prevention (blue).

To volunteer or be a sponsor for the walk, contact Renbein at 575-323-1655 or robynrehbein@gmail.com. Visit afsp.org/lascruces.

For more information about suicide, including warning signs and risk factors, suicide-prevention research, support for those affected by suicide, treatment and resources like crisis services (listed under the “find support” on the home page), visit the AFSP website at afsp.org/campaigns/national-suicide-prevention-week-2019/. For statistics on suicides in New Mexico, visit chapterland.org.

Mike Cook may be reached at mike@lascrucesbulletin.com.

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