Suicide. It's not an easy topic to tackle. Stigma still exists. An open dialogue is the key to prevention. Let's start one.

After being at 94.3 The Point for eight and a half years, my listeners have become my friends and family. There's not much about me that I don't share on the air.

On Saturday, September 15, please join Team Matt Ryan at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Bar A in Lake Como. Registration and check-in begin at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10 a.m.

No donations are necessary (although they would be greatly appreciated.) I just want to walk with you and celebrate life. My friends and colleagues will also be walking in memory of Mark Creutzinger, a co-worker that we lost just months ago to suicide. My story is below.

Last year the Jersey Shore Walk raised almost $150,000 for AFSP. This year we have a bold goal of raising  $175,000 for suicide prevention programs. Half of the total monies raised will go to AFSP’s national to support research funding and our national education, advocacy, and support programs. The remaining half will stay in this community and be spend on local efforts for education and prevention, advocacy, and support.

AFSP is a voluntary health organization that gives those affected by suicide a nationwide community empowered by research, education and advocacy to take action against this leading cause of death.

AFSP is the leader in the fight against suicide. They fund research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss.

Thanks to Walkers and Donors like you, AFSP has been able to set 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.

I hope you'll walk with me! If not, please consider making a donation.

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