An Ideal Way to Safely Memorialize a Death by Suicide for Schools

As a statewide program that helps schools who have sustained the sad loss of a student to suicide, we are too aware of the kinds of struggles that a school community faces in their efforts to help their students, personnel and parents recover. One of the most challenging issues a school faces is helping their community mourn the loss and appropriately and safely memorialize the deceased. Suicide contagion among adolescents and young adults is a real phenomenon and certain memorialization activities can increase risk for contagion.

The Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth Program (TLC) would like to suggest an activity that can be an active, living memorial that allows youth to express the natural desire to commemorate the life of their peer without inadvertently glorifying the cause of death. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) sponsors suicide prevention walks across the country called Out of the Darkness Community Walks. Those who have lost someone to suicide can walk in that person’s memory and honor them by raising money for AFSP. The monies raised will be go to vital research and education programs to prevent suicide and save lives, increase national awareness about depression and suicide and assist survivors of suicide loss.

Your youth can walk with thousands of others across the nation and by raising money for AFSP can satisfy that desire to “do something” to make sense of a senseless death and by being an agent in preventing another.

After an Out of the Darkness Community Walk, one New Jersey School addressed the question of yearbook memorialization by including the deceased student’s picture in the yearbook with the caption “In your memory we will work to fund research to prevent suicide.” They also included a picture of their students participating in the Out of the Darkness Walk. The school administration used the walk and the forum of the yearbook to help educate others about suicide prevention efforts. The act of walking communicated not only the students’ wish to honor their friend’s life, but also their denouncement of the way he or she died. It also highlighted the students’ desire to do whatever they could to stop further suicides.

AFSP also sponsors an Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk once a year. The Out of the Darkness Overnight is an 18-mile journey through the night, from dusk until dawn. It's a unique opportunity to bring the issues of depression and suicide into the light as participants walk together to turn heartbreak into hope for tomorrow.

For further information about becoming involved in these walks, please visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website at www.afsp.org.