Suicide prevention and awareness walk draws thousands to Aksarben Village

The Nebraska chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention held its Out of the Darkness walk Saturday morning.
Published: Sep. 30, 2023 at 5:25 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - As Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month comes to a close, Nebraska’s chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention welcomed thousands to their largest event: the Out of the Darkness Walk.

Community members walked for their friends or family members they’ve lost to suicide.

They also walked for survivors, and for those who may be facing their own struggles.

“It’s an event for hope,” says Jen Sparrock, the chair for the Nebraska chapter.

“It’s an event for people to know that as a community, we care and we all rely on each other, it’s okay to talk about our mental health, it’s okay to have issues, and just let people know that there is help and there’s hope.”

Nebraska’s chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hopes to raise $300,000 by the end of Saturday.

“An event like this is important, but it’s the stuff that we can do from an event like this that allows us to get prevention education out to people, that allows us to be able to do advocacy work with the legislature, and all of the things that the entire community is really putting a focus on about mental health right now,” Sparrock adds.

For many at Saturday’s walk, it’s personal for them.

“I don’t think there was anybody who could say anything bad about him, he was very genuine, and again, loved life more than anybody I know.,” says Debby Fehr, who lost her son, Joe, to suicide in 2018. “I never in a million years would’ve thought this would’ve happened to him.”

Saturday was an opportunity for the Fehr family to continue to honor their son, and to help others who may be facing their own difficult journeys.

“So since [2018], we’ve learned more about the condition, how we can help people, and he wanted us to do that so that’s why we’re here,” says Doug Fehr, Joe’s father.

The Fehrs are some of the many voices working tirelessly to de-stigmatize mental health challenges.

Doug Fehr says events like the Out of the Darkness walk remind them that they aren’t alone in the fight, either.

“We share our stories, and you see some commonalities, but everybody’s story is a little different,” Doug says. “But, everyone’s loss is horrific, immeasurable, unthinkable and so seeing each other out here really helps.”

You can donate to support research and advocacy work around suicide prevention and mental health resources on the AFSP webpage here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 -- dial 988.