As Everett’s Kristen Simonelli sets out into the darkness on June 27 for the Out of the Darkness Overnight Suicide Awareness walk in Boston, she said she hopes to shine a light on an issue that often remains silent within families and communities.
Simonelli, 33, said she has suffered from depression in her life, and had to re-evaluate everything when her uncle, a carpenter from Revere, committed suicide suddenly when she was in high school.
“I personally struggle with depression and that really was apparent to me when in 2003 my uncle actually committed suicide,” she said. “My family went through the struggles and going through that made us take a look at things…I’ve had depression since high school even before my uncle took his life. With him, we didn’t see it coming. He was happy and worked as a carpenter. Everyone knew him and it was just a real shock.”
The walk will take place staring on June 27 at Boston City Hall Plaza and will continue through the night – with lighted lanterns and Beacons lighting the path for walkers. The event has occurred in Boston only once before, and an accompanying event in Dallas occurred in April. It is put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) – which indicated this week that suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in Massachusetts.
One person, they said, died from suicide in the state every 15 hours.
“Every year suicide claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined, and yet suicide prevention doesn’t get anywhere near the funding given to other leading causes of death. It’s through the work of organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that funds are raised for this important issue,” said AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia. “We look forward to walking with thousands of people in Boston. Together, we can put a stop to this tragic loss of life.”
The 16-mile walk ends at sunrise and each walker has to raise a minimum of $1,000 to participate. The Dallas event in April raised $1.45 million and a similar result is expected in Boston.
Simonelli said she really wants people to begin speaking openly about mental health issues, which many times are the precursors to suicide.
“It’s 2015 and it still has the stigma that it had 30 or 40 years ago – that there’s something wrong with the victims of suicide or those who have mental health issues,” she said. “I have no problem saying I have depression and I meditate and if I have to take medication, I do. The thing is we need to have a more open dialog with people starting at a younger age.”
She said she hopes to raise money for the walk in order to get more education to young people so that they interact with one another differently and don’t grow up knowing the stigma associated with suicide.
“I don’t want the kids to have this stigma attached to these issues like I did,” she said. “I always had the stigma associated with suicide. When my uncle killed himself, I was like, ‘Oh my, where did that come from?’ I had to re-learn everything I knew about people being depressed. At that point, it was in my family. Kids today are moving to a more open dialog about this, and they are interacting differently now at a younger age.”
Simonelli is raising money and donations can be sent to her AFSP fund-raising link: http://theovernight.donordrive.com/participant/ksimonelli.
She can also be e-mailed at [email protected].