Lake County Suicide Prevention and Awareness walk to go virtual again
Despite having to host their annual Walk for Suicide Prevention and Awareness virtually again this year, organizers expect to see the number of participants grow.
There won't be a large crowd of people gathering together for the cause, but Lake County Health Department Health Educator Sandra Gomez said that doesn't mean fewer people will be involved.
"In 2019, we had 135 people attending the walk. Last year was virtual and we had more people, 155. We are expecting to have even more people for this year," said Gomez, who hopes for at least 200 participants. "Every year, we expect to reach out to more people and engage them to join us in this goal of prevention."
The event is organized by the Lake County Suicide Prevention Task Force, which was formed in Waukegan years ago to support families affected by a series of suicides involving police officers. The group has grown as a nonprofit organization that works to prevent suicide and promote mental health awareness in the county through outreach events like the annual walk, and professional training and community education.
With COVID-19 cases again on the rise, officials said, it is more important than ever to help people in need. There were 72 suicides last year in Lake County, the highest number in the last five years, according to Steve Newton, chief deputy coroner. Newton also said 42 people have died via suicide in 2021.
According to the coroner's office, the number of suicides more than triples the number of homicides in the county each year.
Because it will be a "virtual walk," those who participate will have more freedom when it comes to getting involved. A small group of task force members will host a walk on Facebook Live at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 25. But walkers are encouraged to do it when it is best for them and wherever they feel comfortable, whether that's their local downtown, forest preserve, neighborhood or treadmill.
Wherever and whenever people walk, they are asked to wear the event T-shirt and to take lots of pictures and videos that organizers will share online.
Those who register can pick up their T-shirts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Lake County Health Department, 3010 Grand Ave. in Waukegan. Registered walkers also will receive a bag containing information on local suicide prevention and mental health resources throughout the county.
Those who wish to help without walking will be able to purchase donation tickets as well. To register, visit endthestigma2021.eventbrite.com.