Despite advances in dialogue as years have gone by, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health. While suicide is not an easy topic to broach, we need to open up the channels before any real change is going to happen. 

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk is this Saturday, September 16 at Bar A in Lake Como. It's all about uniting the community with reflection and education. We will remember the way suicide and mental illness has affected our lives and the lives of those close to us.

The walk is rain or shine and is about 2 miles. It starts and ends at Bar A. Pre-registration is open now, but ends on Friday. You can also register on site beginning at 9 a.m. The opening ceremony is at 10 a.m. and the walk begins at 10:15. Click here for details on the day.

With the power of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we will raise money to educate the public about mental health resources and suicide prevention. AFSP has a goal to reduce the annual suicide rate 20% by 2025.

I'm very vocal about my struggle with mental health. Why? We all need to understand that all mental illness is usually out of the control of the person dealing with it. It's no different than someone who is born with a medical condition that requires them to take medicine to manage their health. Having a mental illness doesn't make you less of a person, it doesn't make you weak, and it doesn't make you unworthy of respect, opportunity, and life.

Here's my story.

I was never an outgoing kid. I can remember worrying myself sick about everything. When I was a sophomore in high school I began feeling depressed and anxious all of the time. As the year went on, the depression got worse. I remember a particular day clearly.  I was sitting in the cafeteria with a few friends and some others that barely knew me. One of the girls in that group found me extremely annoying. My depression had hit an all time low and I planned to take my life that day. It wasn’t a passing thought, I was going to end my life when I got home from school. I had never said anything to anyone, but I spoke of my plans at the lunch table that day. I could have subconsciously been asking for help, but I was more or less telling them I wouldn’t be at lunch tomorrow. Lunch wrapped up as usual and the day continued.

When it became time for PE, I didn’t get dressed. I didn’t care. I sat in the bleachers as the rest of the class hit the track. I spent that time thinking and planning. Towards the middle of the period, I noticed a woman walk from the school and over to my PE teacher. The two began to walk over to me. I figured I was being written up for not participating. The teacher and this woman came over to me and asked me to walk back to the building with them. I was told we were going to the principal’s office. When the woman opened the door the principal was standing there, and so was my mother visibly upset.

Unknown to me, the woman who walked me to the office was the school’s therapist. Someone reported my threat of suicide to the teacher who ran a club I was a part of. Little did I know that the person who said something was not one of my friends, it was that girl that found me annoying and hardly knew me. It turns out, I hardly knew her. We were in the same club and I didn’t even realize it. The point is, she heard something, so she said something. If she hadn’t, I wouldn't be writing this now.

I immediately went to a doctor and was diagnosed and treated for depression, OCD and anxiety disorder. These are all things that I deal with every day. I like to think that I make personal progress a little at a time.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You are loved and important.

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It's open 24 hours a day.

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