SAS to hold annual walk this weekend

For three years, Stand Against Suicide has been working to end the stigma associated with mental illness.

In order to help further that mission, the Elbridge-based nonprofit holds a walk every year at the Syracuse Inner Harbor. This year’s event will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 18; registration begins at 10 a.m. The event also includes music, raffles, face painting and other activities, including a balloon release and remarks from guest speakers who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Tara Dennee, who founded the organization in 2011 after her father took his own life in 2008, said the walk aims to raise awareness about the risks of mental illness and, hopefully, keep people from committing suicide.

“Many people don't seek treatment for mental health issues because they feel alone,” Dennee said. “The stigma is still very strong. About 90 percent of all individuals that completed a suicide had a treatable mental disorder. This is when I knew I had to do something to help raise awareness. If I had known the warning signs, forms of treatment, different mental illnesses and how to find help, my dad might still be here today.”

The walk should not be confused with the Out of Darkness Walk held by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) on Oct. 11. The two organizations are not affiliated.

“AFSP is more national and more into research and stuff,” Dennee said. “We are local and community-based.”

In addition to the walk, SAS provides peer-based support groups to help those dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide or their own mental health issues. Several different groups, all hosted by trained facilitators, meet a total of nine times per month in three different locations.

“[We need to] let people know they aren't alone in their journey,” Dennee said.

That’s the goal of the walk — to help people to understand they aren’t alone.

“There is always a way to get help, and there are always people that care about you,” Dennee said. “Stand Against Suicide is here to help those that need help.”

To register for the walk or for more information, visit sasevents.org/2014Walk.

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