The people in the crowd bowed their heads in prayer, before the You Are Not Alone Suicide Awareness Walk began on Saturday morning at the Florida A&M University track.
Erica Starling, the principle of Gadsden Elementary Magnet School, organized the event for her son Torrie William’s second-year memorial. Williams committed suicide at age 21.
Starling hopes to bring awareness about suicides to Tallahassee. The biggest stigma about suicide is “black people don’t do it, but it’s the third leading cause of death in African- American males,” Starling said.
“Events specifically for suicide prevention are uncommon,” said Sheila Horne, the development director of the Big Bend Cares. “We don’t want to talk about it, the statistics are so high because people don’t know about it.”
Horne says that the Big Bend is happy to partner with the Starling family for this event. She believes suicide rates will decrease as more people become informed about suicide warning signs and how to deal with them.
Gadsden Elementary cheerleaders, FAMU students and other supporters walked the track.
Patty Crosswhite, a FAMU college of education graduate student from Mexico Beach, Fla., brought her husband and son to the event.
She enjoyed “feeling like part of the team and the university,”Crosswhite said.
At his family-owned funeral home, Justin Lee, a second year pre-physical therapy student from Miami, said he has worked with families who have lost a loved one to suicide.
“If I see an opportunity to support anything that I have strong feelings for, I am going to come and support,” Lee said.
Anton G. Elwood, pastor of New Mount Zion A.M.E Church, said when Starling came to him with the vision of this event, he did whatever he could to help.
“Fliers, a DJ, water; anything we could do so she can tell her story to the Tallahassee community,” Elwood said.
“Most people will go through situations alone without seeking help. You should always seek another voice when dealing with depressing times,” Elwood added.
Starling said it is important that local churches are a part of this event. She wants people to know that local churches are there if they feel alone.
Horne said, if a pastor or others are not available, the big bend’s program, 2-1-1 Big Bend has people who are trained to talk about crisis and loss twenty-four-seven.