Emporians linked together with local health organizations for the Third Annual Hope Links Us Together Suicide Prevention Walk at the Lyon County Fairgrounds Saturday morning.

Presented by Beacon for Hope, the event provided those in attendance with a chance to reach out to others affected by suicide or suicidal thoughts, as well as remember those who have died by suicide. The sometimes-taboo subject was talked about freely and openly while health care and mental health resources were shared at booths lining the Bowyer Community Building.

Walk organizers said it was important for them to be there in order to show individuals struggling in their day-to-day lives that they were loved and cared about.

“We had 170 people pre-register for this year, and it’s our biggest support event of the year,” Beacon for Hope Executive Director Melissa Kurtenbach said. “We make it free so anyone of any age can come for a day of hope and healing for those affected by suicide either through loss or their own personal struggle with mental health … We have Newman Regional Health, the Flint Hills Community Health Center, SOS Inc., Corner House and a couple home-based businesses here today as well. It gives the agencies a chance to talk to community members that otherwise wouldn’t know what resources are here in Emporia.

“So many people suffer from some form of mental illness, and those people often feel alone. We’re offering this event so they don’t have to feel that way. You can look across your table, you can walk by somebody new and know that that person shares the same journey you’re going through and that struggle, although their circumstances might be a little different. We want people to know that it’s OK to not be OK.”

This year’s keynote speaker was suicide survivor Michelle Young. Before the walk, she spoke of a slow and continual process of coming to love herself after years of abuse as a child and during her marriage. After falling into a deep depression which resulted in multiple suicide attempts, Young was able to turn her life around by searching for and receiving support from both professionals and loved ones.

Although it was difficult for her to tell her story at times, Young said her goal was to inspire others to seek help with mental illness and share similar stories of their own.

“I still struggle with suicidal thoughts and low self-esteem, but I have developed coping skills, an amazing support system and I ask for help when I need it ...” Young said. “For those of you that are struggling, you are not alone. The world may seem empty, and everything may lose its luster, but know that there are those who genuinely care for you and support you, even if you can’t see it … Your life is worth it.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential referral to crisis services. The Beacon for Hope offices are located at 527 Commercial St. and can be contacted by calling 620-208-9926 or online at hopelinks.org.

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