The Out of the Darkness Walk, developed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, made its debut in Clovis on Sept. 15 at the Clovis Aquatic Center.
The money that was raised went towards funding research as well as staffing in schools for children and teens who have depression or who are contemplating suicide.
Organizing the walk was a very personal project for Janette Chavarria, mother of four. In June 2014, she lost her 21-year-old brother to suicide. Her father passed away from suicide in November 2017, and her 12-year-old son took his life just in March of this year.
Chavarria admitted that at first, she thought her son was struggling with the transition from elementary to middle school, and that he was simply going through a phase.
Looking back at that time, she said, “As parents we don’t wanna sit there and think that suicide has anything to do with their mood change or them being angry. Suicide is one of the things parents don’t ever want to think about when it comes to their children. It is out there, and it happens all the time.”
Chavarria’s goal for the Clovis walk was to bring awareness to the town, specifically in the schools. She wanted to see the community come together to help with and attend the walk. She noted the importance of being able to help someone else.
Chavarria has spoken to a few teens and an 8-year-old, and she has told them her story. She told them how what’s happened to her doesn’t only affect her, but it affects everybody else as well.
Helping people by sharing her story was never Chavarria’s intention after the loss of her son. She was focused on keeping her and the rest of her family afloat. One of Chavarria’s sons began attending a group where other children his age had a safe space to talk about their experiences with suicide and how it had affected them. She said her son had a hard time opening up about what happened, but that the group helped him to finally be able to talk about his brother and what he was going through. Chavarria began to realize that sharing her experiences could affect people in a positive way.
She said, “Since I’ve gotten into this, I’ve noticed that somebody else can make a difference for somebody else.”
Chavarria is determined to continue to do anything she can to help bring awareness to the schools, even after the events of the walk. The message she wants to get across is “not making it a point that suicide is the only way out.”
As a wellness counselor at Eastern New Mexico University, Katy Wolfe is in full support of the walk.
She said she thinks the event will prove to be helpful in breaking down the stigma around mental health, adding that needing help is nothing to be ashamed of, because life isn’t easy.
She said, “When you talk about these things, it helps people to connect to how to get help or how to help a friend or family member.”
Some common signs that may indicate that someone is contemplating suicide include extreme changes in behavior, talking about death constantly, not having a forward-thinking kind of sense, increased drug or alcohol use and increased risky behavior.
Wolfe encourages individuals to connect with their friends and family members with the appropriate resources if they feel these people may be having suicidal thoughts.
Counseling services at Eastern are a free service offered to students and include a 24-hour crisis phone number at 575-607-5689.
When giving advice to her clients, Wolfe tries to focus on getting them to think about the future. She starts with small goals that could be as simple as asking the individual what their favorite food is and then requesting that they go make or buy that meal. She also gives them a variety of tasks to focus on. She wants her clients to have something that they can look forward to, something that will keep them thinking about the future even if it’s just that they’re excited about the upcoming weekend.
Above all else, Wolfe notes the importance of listening to her clients in order to better understand them.
She said, “Sometimes people just need somebody to listen to them.”