September 22, 2021
Story by Joe Vinduska
Courtesy Photos submitted
A large group of Barton students participated in the ninth annual “Golden Belt Glow 4 Life” 5k run/walk to help promote suicide awareness Saturday in Great Bend at Veteran’s Park. The event was put on by the Central Kansas Partnership Suicide Prevention Task Force.
Barton Community College Mental Health Counselor Jakki Maser said it’s important to raise awareness about suicide.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 10 to 34, making it a serious public health problem,” she said. “Suicide rates have increased significantly over the last 15 years and while we don’t yet have a good assessment of the pandemic’s effect on suicide, we do know that last year’s calls to suicide hotlines were up about 47% nationally, with some call centers reporting increases as high as 800%. Although suicide is a very difficult topic to discuss, knowledge is key to saving lives and silence can have tragic results. For that reason, it is important to increase efforts to improve awareness and prevention.”
Student Jonathan Beers said suicide is a wide-reaching problem and wanted to help any way he could.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to participate,” he said. “I don’t think I know anyone anymore who hasn’t been affected by suicide in one way or another.”
Maser said the Student Services Department at the college wanted to sponsor a team of students to participate in the run and started out by registering 10 spots.
“We had no idea what to expect in terms of how many people would sign up,” she said. “Within a few days of opening the sign up to students, it became clear that we would need to create more than a few extra spots. Sixty students who registered showed up for the race. We also had instructors, coaches and parents asking how they could participate alongside their students as well. It has been really inspiring to see everyone come together for this cause through this event.”
Barton registrations and an official sponsorship raised $1,625 for the cause. Barton County Upward Bound also supplied 24 student volunteers to help with set up including unloading supplies, marking the course, setting up lighting and decorating luminaries. They also helped check racers in and distributed glow sticks and bracelets, controlled traffic, cheered on the runners, handed out water and walked the course to ensure that everything was taken down.
Maser said it’s important to educate people and teach about common misconceptions about suicide.
“Suicidal thoughts can be experienced by anyone, regardless of race, gender, age or background,” she said. “Although there are not always clear warning signs, the CDC reports at least 1 in 5 people who die by suicide expressed their intent to do so to a friend or family member. That’s why it’s so important to know the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, resources available for help, and to continue efforts of raising awareness and reducing stigma. Suicidal thoughts are not permanent, suicide is preventable, and mental health and wellness are too important to ignore. Preventing suicide truly must be a community effort that involves family, friends, workplaces, schools, and whole communities working together. Our most valuable resource is each other and no one should be suffering alone.”
For more information, contact Mental Health Counselor Jakki Maser at firstname.lastname@example.org or (620) 792-9295.