SNOW HILL — Hoping to boost awareness of suicide in Worcester County, representatives from several advocacy groups met with the County Commission last week to update them on the status of prevention efforts in the area as well as to invite them to attend an upcoming fundraiser.
That fundraiser, which is a joint effort by the Jesse Klump Foundation, Atlantic General Hospital (AGH), the Worcester County Health Department (WCHD), the Core Service Agency (CSA), and the Worcester County Local Management Board (LMB), is called the “Out of Darkness” suicide prevention walk and will be hosted in Ocean City at the end of the month. Worcester has a suicide rate consistently higher than the state average, with a 2003-2009 study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) ranking the county at 11 out of 24 in the state, with an average of 10.5 suicide deaths per 100,000, more than a point higher than the Maryland average of 9.4.
“We have living proof that suicide happens and that it can be prevented,” said Jennifer LaMade, Director of CSA.
LaMade explained that the walk serves as a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and has set a goal of $5,000. However, community support has been strong enough to blow past that original goal, causing surprised organizers to set a new benchmark.
“We have already reached our fundraiser goal,” LaMade confirmed. “We hope to at least double our goal and raise $10,000.”
To date, Out of Darkness has already raised over $8,600, according to LaMade.
Taking place Saturday, Sept. 29 on the Boardwalk, there is still time for last-minute donations or to register a team to walk, which will take place at 9 a.m. at Caroline St. There is no registration fee.
State Senator and former Ocean City Mayor Jim Mathias (D-38B) will serve as the walk’s “master of ceremonies” and LaMade encouraged any interested County Commissioners to attend as well. They could even get a team together and walk if the mood struck them, she added.
“It’s not an endurance walk,” joked LaMade.
Besides the fundraiser, the commission was also updated on local efforts to spread suicide prevention awareness among one of the most vulnerable demographics: youth.
“We are planning this year to meet faculty from every high school and middle school [in Worcester],” said Ron Pilling, secretary/treasurer for the Jesse Klump Fund.
Pilling spoke about “SOS,” or “Signs of Suicide,” a new program that his organization is testing out at Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) meetings in Delaware.
“We’re trying that out,” he told the commission.
Depending on how the program is received, Pilling expects to bring it into Worcester classrooms. Pilling added that the Jesse Klump Foundation also recently briefed school bus contractors on how to spot warning signs in children in teens that could indicate that they need help, as well as how to contact those that can help.
The commissioners promised to consider the walk and uniformly thanked all of the representatives and their various organizations for combating suicide in Worcester.
“It’s a job that someone needs to do and we think you’re doing it very, very well,” said Commission President Bud Church, adding that if “you’ve saved one child, you’ve saved the world.”
For more information on Out of Darkness, call 443-614-7992 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org or www.outofthedarkness.org