Suicide awareness walk to spread ‘Hope’ in Greensburg’s Twin Lakes Park
The theme underlines the importance of “being a rainbow in somebody’s life,” said Rachel Cunningham Ravis, who is coordinator for Ray of Hope, a local group that organizes the walk, and development director for Mental Health America of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The event is meant to raise awareness of the toll suicides take on families in the county and across Pennsylvania while remembering those who have been lost, she said.
The walk begins with an opening ceremony at 10:30 a.m. at the park activity center along the Lower Lake. Participants may choose to complete a course of just under 1 mile around the Upper Lake, or an alternate 1 1/2-mile course around the Lower Lake. Refreshments will be served.
Pre-registration is required to attend a gathering of survivors and discussion session at 9:30 a.m. in the center which will be moderated by a professional counselor.
“It’s a time for individuals who have lost loved ones to suicide,” Ravis said. “It allows family and friends to share memories and create a personalized remembrance item.
“For some people, this walk is very emotional, especially if their loss is relatively recent. Everybody grieves differently. This is a chance to have support before the walk begins.”
There is a same-day registration fee of $20. Event proceeds help the Westmoreland County Suicide Awareness and Prevention Task Force to provide educational programming and purchase related materials while also supporting a local survivors’ group, Loved Ones Stolen by Suicide (LOSS).
“We usually have as many as 300 participants,” Ravis said of the walk. “It continues to grow each year because the suicide rate in the United States and Pennsylvania is continuing to grow.”
According to reports issued by county Coroner Kenneth A. Bacha, annual suicide rates in the county have fluctuated over the past 17 years — from a low of 34 in 2003 to a high of 61 in 2016. There were 58 suicides each in 2017 and 2018 and 34 have been reported so far in 2019.
LOSS support meetings are held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the Mental Health America office at 409 Coulter Ave. in South Greensburg.
For more information, visit rayofhopewestmoreland.org or call 724-834-6351, ext. 118.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .