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Friddle chairing suicide prevention walk

Staff reports

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) aims to empower people to have brave conversations about mental health. 

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, yet suicide can be prevented, and everyone can help. 

Volunteers from Jackson and all over West Tennessee are joining the quarter of a million people who are walking in towns across the United States to draw attention to the fight for suicide prevention. The annual West Tennessee Out of the Darkness Walk, hosted by the AFSP TN chapter will be held at 10 a.m., Oct. 26, 2024, at Jackson State Community College. 

This walk supports the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s education and support programs and its bold goal to reduce the annual U.S. rate of suicide 20 percent by the year 2025. 

“Suicide touches one in five American families. We hope that by walking we will draw attention to this issue and keep other families from experiencing a suicide loss. Our goal is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide,” said Don Friddle, Fire Chief, City of Jackson Tennessee Fire Department.

Friddle returns to the West TN Walk for 2024 having previously been a co-chair in 2022. Part of Friddle’s passion is derived from research that shows individuals in certain occupations, including first responders, appear to be at increased risk for suicide. 

Firefighters and law enforcement officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty; and EMS clinicians are more likely to take their life than members of the general public. Public safety telecommunicators are at risk as well; studies have found that nearly one-quarter experience depression and as many as 24% have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“These walks are about turning hope into action,” said AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia. “The research has shown us how to fight suicide, and if we keep up the fight, the science is only going to get better, and our culture will get smarter about mental health. With the efforts of our courageous volunteers, and a real investment from our nation’s leaders, we hope to significantly reduce the suicide rate in the United States.” To register for the West Tennessee Out of the Darkness Walk, visit afsp.org/WestTN.

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