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'Speak Up' walk raises money and awareness for mental health and suicide prevention

Posted at 1:13 PM, Sep 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 10:03:06-04

OLATHE, Kan. — Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health and the second leading cause between the ages of 10 to 34.

To help eliminate the stigma of mental health issues and raise money to bring awareness and prevent these kind of deaths from happening, almost a thousand people showed up to the sixth annual "Speak Up" walk in Olathe on Sunday.

Many of those who joined in are parents who lost a son or daughter to suicide.

"Five years ago this week we lost my daughter Lane to her mental illness," Jan Marrs, treasurer of Speak Up said."At the time we were seeking ways to help others to ensure that no other kids were lost."

Marrs said the money raised at the walk will funnel into getting resources into the high schools through a program called "Sources of Strength."

She explained the goal of the program.

"To get peers and teens talking to one another about mental health, providing resources to one another, getting them connected with coaches and other community resources and we now do that with a variety of partners," Marrs said.

For so long, parents tell KSHB 41 News bringing up the topic of mental health and suicide was taboo.

"We wanted to erase the stigma, and to bring awareness and to bring helpfulness and hopefulness to middle school and high schoolers," Steven Arkin, co-founder of Speak Up said. "It’s about being aware and it’s about being able to help each other and bring everybody up in the same position and know what’s happening around them and to know the non-verbal ways people are expressing themselves [in] their isolation and be able to understand what to do next."

Together, they're hoping another family doesn't have to deal with this kind of loss ever again.

"In some ways you’re grieving but you’re also getting people to talk about the things they need to talk about to make sure it doesn’t happen again," Marrs said.

To learn more about Speak Up, click here.