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Brad Byrd In-Depth: Emily Reidford Talks Suicide Prevention Walk

This Saturday is the Annual Lifesavers' Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk. It's a one mile walk to promote suicide awareness, education, and prevention.

The walk starts Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at the Evansville State Hospital. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Adults pay $25 to participate. Children and seniors pay $10.

All proceeds go to fund suicide prevention activities sponsored by the Southwestern Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Brad Byrd talks with the walk's co-chair Emily Reidford about Saturday's walk and the ongoing issue that has claimed too many lives. Reidford is the executive director of Mental Health America of Vanderburgh County and co-chair of the Southwest Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition.

Transcription of interview:

Brad Byrd: Welcome to In-Depth. It is a subject many feel uncomfortable to talk about: suicide. But tonight, we will preview an event that will put it in the spotlight this weekend. The Lifesaver' Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk Saturday morning at eight at the Evansville State Hospital. I'm joined tonight by Emily Reidford who is the co-chair of the walk. She is also the executive director of Mental Health America of Vanderburgh County and co-chair of the Southwest Indiana Suicide Prevention Coaltion. Emily, in the title of the walk, it's awareness before prevention. And why do you feel it's difficult for people to just talk about this?"

Emily Reidford: "Yeah, it's a sticky subject for a lot of people, and I think our coalition has done a good job of getting the awareness of the debt of the problem out there. And now it's time to supplement that with training and education for people."

Brad Byrd: "And this has been an ongoing effort for years. It seems like though at least in the news cycle way of life, major events like Robin Williams of course when his death was ruled a suicide just a few years ago, it was in the national spotlight. But shortly after that news cycle wound down, it was basically back to the local circles of discussion. With that being said here in Evansville and Vanderburgh County, the suicide rate, is it a growing problem or is there some light at the end of the tunnel on this?"

Emily Reidford: "It is a growing problem in the area, and our coalition is working everyday year round to combat that. We hear about the statistics from the coroner about the ones that we missed. But what's difficult to catch is to find the number of people that we are helping and saving and we're putting in touch with resources."

Brad Byrd: "And when you say several agencies are involved in this: law enforcement and first responders."

Emily Reidford: "Definitely, our coalition is made up of several volunteers. Our law enforcement, mental health providers, schools, local universities, suvivors of suicide in the area, all kinds of agencies come to support the cause."

Brad Byrd: "The demographic in all of this, I was kind of surprise when you told me the most vulnerable group is. Tell me about that."

Emily Reidford: "White middle-aged men."

Brad Byrd: "And why is that?"

Emily Reidford: "If we knew, first of all we would work to fight that. But I think it's a lot of reasons really: a lot of financial stress, relationship issues. Most of them are working, so if there is job loss or some kind of significant loss, it can trigger a suicide."

Brad Byrd: "And we were talking about some people who are the most prone to commit suicide are those who don't talk about it, don't open up. That's part of the tragedy, and how do you break through that?"

Emily Reidford: "Yeah, that's why we always encourage people to ask the question: Are you thinking about killing yourself? Even a simple opener like 'Are you okay?' can go a long way with people to helping them reach out."

Brad Byrd: "And if you wanted to look at that camera right now and talk to someone who might be continuly depressed or someday might trigger that might prompted that individual to think 'Well, this is not just worth it', what would you tell that person?"

Emily Reidford: "I would say that your life does matter, and there are people about you and can help. Hang on to that little sliver of hope you have and reach out and make that phone call to a friend or a suicide prevention number. We've got a hotline. It's (812) 422-1100, or there's a national hotline number that's 1-800-273-TALK. And there is a trained profession at the end of that phone ready to help you get through this and take it with you every step of the way."

Brad Byrd: "Now while we continue to talk about the discussion, Chris, if you could throw up the website that we talked about that will promote this walk of course this weekend. We talked about those groups that are proned to think about suicide. We also think about our young people and that demographic, and social media, texting. There are so many pressures and enablers about this. How do you deal with that?"

Emily Reidford: "Yeah, it just goes to show that people's words are powerful. So, think about that the next time you post something or the next time you text someone. Think about how your words are going to help someone or hurt someone. There is a lot of good information out there on social media. A lot of the national organizations are putting out good, reputable, safe messages for people."

Brad Byrd: "And the stories you can share with me, is there one you could share where you met a perfect stranger, perhaps at these walks? Who are the people who show up at these walks?"

Emily Reidford: "Yeah, I think the one that is so special about our walk is year after year a lot of times we see the same families coming to walk every year to remember their loved one and celebrate. But I think what's so cool is that they come, while their grief may change overtime and may be vastly different from where they were a year before, it's that connectivity with the survivors and that support they're giving and receiving that is really powerful to see."

Brad Byrd: "Okay, and the walk starts at 9 a.m. But if you are not preregistered, you advise to show up at 8 a.m.?"

Emily Reidford: "Yes, it's at the State Hospital grounds at about 8 a.m. We'll get you registered. We're expecting a lot of walk-ins that day, and we'll welcome everybody."

Brad Byrd: "Alrighty, well, thank you so much, Emily Reidford, with the Coalition for Suicide Prevention and also you're the executive director of the Mental Health America Chapter of Vanderburgh County. It should be a beautiful morning for this walk on Saturday, and it is a story we will continue to cover. And hopefully, those numbers will come down because you are saving lives."

Emily Reidford: "We know that. We know that."

Brad Byrd: "Alright, thank you so much for being here tonight."

Emily Reidford: "Thanks Brad."

(This story was originally published on September 7, 2017)

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