Out of Darkness walk raises suicide prevention awareness

Mayor Lenny Curry proclaims Dec. 3 Suicide Prevention Day during event

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry proclaimed Dec. 3 as Suicide Prevention Day Sunday during the Out of Darkness suicide prevention walk on the city’s South Bank. 

Suicide is a subject some people don't feel comfortable talking about, and suicide survivors say that's the problem.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Florida, with men dying 3.5 times more often than women.

For Erica Starling and Erika Winter, it's unfortunately something they are all too familiar with. Both walked in the Out of Darkness walk at Treaty Oak Park. 

Winter's father, Jeff Winter, took his own life eight years ago, as did Starling's son, Torrie Williams, at just 21 years old. 

Starling and Winter were coworkers at Stonewall Jackson Elementary, and when Starling shared her son's story, Winter opened up about her father.

Now, they share the same message.

“We have to get the message out that it's OK to need help, and we understand you need help,” Starling said. “But (with) a lot of suicides, it's (the) things they kept in themselves.”

As educators, Starling and Winter said they can to reach out to people with depression.

“It's important to me to educate others, and I believe, even though I couldn't save my son, I could save somebody else's son,” Starling said.

“It's important if you are struggling with depression to speak out. There are people that care and want to help you,” Winter said. “We really hope people can step out and start sharing what they are feeling and to not be ashamed of what they are feeling.”

If you or someone you know is battling thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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