This picture is from the first Out of the Darkness Campus Walk on the campus of BGSU.
This picture is from the first Out of the Darkness Campus Walk on the campus of BGSU.

By Leslie Noia
Staff Writer

PUTNAM COUNTY - According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 14 minutes someone in the U.S. dies by suicide. Currently, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and area resident Rachel Valis volunteers to help spread awareness for this growing issue.

Valis, formally of Leipsic, became actively involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) following the deaths of both her mother, Dolores (Donald) Schroeder and aunt, Betty (Joseph) Schroeder, to suicide.

AFSP is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide. Another huge component to AFSP is that they are working to de-stigmatize the issues of mental health and suicide.

"The pain of losing both my mom and my aunt will never go away and their deaths have resulted in questions that will remain forever unanswered. As a result, I am determined to do whatever I can to help prevent another family from experiencing a loss by suicide," said Valis.

Valis is currently in the final stages of establishing a chapter of AFSP in Northwest Ohio and is taking part in the 2013 AFSP Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in Washington D.C. June 1 and 2. The 16 to 20-mile walk takes place from dusk until dawn and will signify her efforts of bring suicide and mental health "out of the darkness." The overnight walk is one of many fundraising efforts the organizations holds to raise money for the issues.

Valis is hoping after the Northwest Chapter is finalized she will be able to organize fundraising activities locally. It is her hope to help spread awareness in Putnam County. "I am hoping once we get branched out we could get a walk started in Ottawa or Findlay," added Valis.

AFSP also works with schools to help awareness of teenage depression. "A lot of what they do deals with teenage depression. It is the third leading cause of death among teens. There is a program for teachers and administrators to help deal with suicide and depression among teens," commented Valis.

Since its founding in 1987, AFSP has:

-Mobilized and connected tens of thousands of people who have lost a family member, loved one, or friend to suicide;

-Reached thousands of individuals who are at risk for suicide, as well as those who love and care for them;

-Attracted the participation of members of the scientific and clinical communities, who conduct ground breaking research on suicide and its prevention with support from AFSP;

-Established more than 50 local chapters in 35 states, with more in the process of forming;

-Educated hundreds of local communities about suicide and how to prevent it;

-Created a public policy and lobbying arm by merging successfully with an existing national policy organization, thus enabling AFSP to press for legislation and policies at the federal, state and local levels that advance the goal of preventing suicide;

-Substantially increased funding from individual donors, including the thousands of highly motivated individuals who participate in our Out of the Darkness Walks;

-Educated reporters and the media about how to best cover suicide;

-Communicated with hundreds of thousands of individuals through the website, social media, brochures, speakers and efforts to generate press coverage.

For more information about suicide and depression and ways to help, please visit https://www.afsp.org/.