Darkness Into Light organizer says education key to suicide prevention in Vancouver

Walk supports Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. and Pieta House

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      We all need to talk about suicide, according to Amy O’Sullivan.

      Three years ago, the East Vancouver resident lost her mother to suicide. Now she’s the chair of the organizing committee for Vancouver’s inaugural Darkness Into Light walk and run, which aims to raise money and awareness for suicide-prevention efforts.

      “Being involved with an event like this, so many people have opened up to me and shared their stories with me,” O’Sullivan told the Georgia Straight by phone. “Everyone that I’ve spoken to has at least one person in their family that has suffered from mental health [problems], has a suicide-related story, or is suffering with depression. It’s just something that’s not openly talked about, and I think that definitely needs to change.”

      Since the first Darkness Into Light was held in Dublin, Ireland, in 2009, the fundraising event has spread to 80 locations worldwide.

      O’Sullivan said she hopes more than 200 people will attend the five-kilometre walk in Burnaby Lake Regional Park, which starts at sunrise, 4:45 a.m., on Saturday (May 9). Shuttle buses will transport participants from downtown Vancouver to the park.

      Adult tickets are $35, and family tickets are $95. The money will go to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. and Pieta House, the Irish organization that started Darkness Into Light.

      Amy O’Sullivan hopes to raise awareness about suicide-prevention efforts with Vancouver's first Darkness Into Light walk.

      Based in Vancouver, the crisis centre is a volunteer-run, nonprofit organization that reached more than 123,000 people in 2013 through its distress and mental-health-support phone lines, online chat services, and community-education program.

      O’Sullivan asserted that educating kids about suicide is key to its prevention. “Suicide is the number two leading cause of death between the ages of 10 and 24, and that’s after accidental injury,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s huge. Young people, they need to talk about it rather than just suffering in silence, which is what is happening.”

      In 2011, 3,728 people died by suicide across the country, according to Statistics Canada. That’s a suicide rate of 10.8 per 100,000 people.

      The crisis centre urges anyone who is having thoughts of suicide—or knows someone who is—to call 1-800-784-2433.