HYANNIS — The nonprofit Sharing Kindness will host its fifth annual Suicide Awareness Walk on Saturday, May 21, beginning at Veterans Beach Park in Hyannis.
This winter was brutal, with the suicides of at least three young people on the Lower and Outer Cape. This year’s walk is expected to have a large turnout, said Kim Mead-Walters, Sharing Kindness’s executive director.
The program starts at 8:30 a.m. with 15 or more community resource tables and a 30-minute offering of “Move Your Grief,” that is, gentle movement and breathing on the beach at 9 a.m. At 10 a.m., a welcome ceremony will include speakers Sen. Julian Cyr, a leader at the State House on mental health policy, and Rep. Tim Whalen, who was a longtime state police officer. The state police respond to “unattended deaths,” including suicides.
The walk begins after the speeches. It will follow a three-mile loop from Veterans Beach Park to Main Street and back. A closing “mindfulness circle” begins at 11:30 a.m.
Participants will be able to view a wall to remember those who have died from the public health crisis of suicide, according to an announcement from Sharing Kindness. Openly talking about suicide is an important part of prevention because it educates children and adults on signs and treatment and provides the language for asking for help.
“Talking about suicide with a young person does not put the idea in their head,” said Maura Weir, director of student wellness and counseling at Cape Cod Community College, at a forum in February. “We have to talk to our young people. Fifteen million people in the U.S. report suicide ideation every year; the number who die is about 48,000. Most suicides are planned. They are not impulsive acts. And not all who die have been diagnosed with mental health problems. We want you to talk about suicide with your loved ones who may be thinking of doing it. We want them to get help.”
All walkers who raise $25 earn a Cape & Islands Suicide Awareness T-shirt. Seafood Sam’s Fish-on-the-Fly and Perry’s Ice Cream trucks will be at the park; each will donate a portion of their proceeds to the walk.
“Our Cape and Islands youth are at twice the risk of dying from suicide as their counterparts over the bridge,” said Mead-Walters. “The Suicide Awareness Walk is one of the ways our organization educates and advocates for change.”
The funds raised locally during the event can help Sharing Kindness staff and volunteers to bring free grief and suicide awareness programming to Cape Cod schools and organizations year-round.
Mead-Walters co-founded Sharing Kindness after her son Jeremy, 16, a student at Nauset High School, died by suicide in 2016. A physician for 26 years at Nauset Family Practice, she retired this year to become executive director of Sharing Kindness.