Suicide prevention walk unites community

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Suicide prevention walk unites community

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ULM students and Monroe locals wearing multi-colored beads gathered in the Activity Center Saturday to participate in Hope Walks Here, an event dedicated to raising money and awareness for suicide prevention.
Unlike at Mardi Gras parades, the beads worn at Hope Walks Here had meaning behind them. Each colored necklace symbolized a different way the person wearing them had been affected by suicide.
The organizer of the event, Amanda Coker, said, “Almost everyone that you meet has been touched by suicide in some way.”
That much was obvious staring out into the crowd of people wearing green, purple, red and other colored necklaces. Participants wore their pain around their necks and walked in honor of those who lost their lives to suicide.
Coker’s passion for suicide prevention began when her brother took his own life win 2010. To this day, his death still impacts Coker and her family. Losing him is what made Coker decide to bring Hope Walks Here to Monroe.
“It is such a prevalent issue in our area and nationally that just doesn’t get enough at-tention. That is something we need to change,” Coker said.
Teri O’Neal, the coroner for Ouachita Parish, agrees with Coker’s desire to change the conversation around suicide by citing the numbers of people who have taken their lives in Ouachita Parish as 87 and counting since 2015.
Due to these numbers and Coker’s desire to enact change, Hope Walks Here had the largest turnout for any college walk in Louisiana. Even on a day that was as dreary and rainy as Saturday, hundreds of people showed up to support the cause.
The walk had over 200 participants and raised around $15,000 for suicide prevention. The rain did not stop donations, people or even butterflies. The largest contributor to the event was the Kitty Degree School of Nursing who was awarded a plaque for their contributions to Hope Walks Here.
One of the ways money was raised was through a series of raffles including a ULM merchandise basket and even community involvement with multiple local restaurants giving away gift cards.
Hannah Logan, a ULM nursing student, attended the event to honor a close friend she recently loss to suicide.
“He was the last person I ever imagined would take their life simply because of the constant and abundant joy that radiated from him,” Logan said.
Logan was happy Coker organized Hope Walks Here because she believed it could help people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts see they are not alone.
“It can give others who are in a dark place in their life a chance to see that people truly care and hurt when they lose someone in their life,” Logan said.
Another student passionate about the event, Jewel Thompson, also wanted to make sure people knew they had support.
“Growing up in a small town, everyone in your class gets to know each other pretty well and just last year, we had a classmate commit suicide,” said Thompson, a senior nursing student.
“Events like these help people who have been affected by suicide know that they are not alone and get the chance to celebrate their loved ones with others in the same situation,” Thompson said.