Thousands march in ‘Out of the Darkness' walk in support of mental health awareness in Uptown

The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention hosted its annual 'Out of the Darkness' walk Saturday morning

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Thousands of people marched in support of mental health awareness on Chicago's North Side Saturday morning, in an event organized by the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.

Organizers of the AFSP say Chicago's 'Out of the Darkness' walk is the largest in the country that supports mental health help and awareness.

Approximately 5,000 people marched through Montrose Harbor Saturday morning in an event that raised nearly $700,000. The money raised will go toward educational programing, resources, advocacy and supporting those who lost loved ones by suicide.

"It’s really an issue that anyone can get behind, and we can see that they really are," Angela Cummings, the Executive Director of the Illinois AFSP said. "When these walks started 20 years ago people didn’t talk about suicide, and they didn’t talk about mental health. And the suicide loss survivors who started these walks needed a place to find community, hope and healing.”

The issue hits home for Chris Allard, who lost his brother Jon in 2018.

“It was something that we didn’t see coming, just like a lot of people here," he told NBC Chicago. “Once we kind of got in front of the story about my brother everyone came out of the woodwork, everybody seemed to have a story. Everyone had some kind of connection."

He encourages people to have tough conversations about mental health and to end the stigma surrounding it.

“There’s still a stigma around this. But each day we do this and raise awareness we kind of chip away from that," he said. "To see this is in one way it’s very sad. But in another way it’s such a great honor and tribute to those we lost."

If you or someone you know needs help, please contact the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘Home’ to 741741 anytime.

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