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Help put a stop to suicide

Kitsap County residents will be walking together Saturday, May 12, to help prevent suicide as part of Kitsap Suicide Prevention Week, May 7-12.

“(Suicide prevention) is something that happens all around the nation,” said Kelly Chatwood, spokeswoman for the Kitsap County Health District.

Next week, the Kitsap Suicide Prevention Task Force and the Youth Suicide Prevention Program will make presentations to various community groups and schools on the seriousness of depression.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, May 12, local Kitsap County residents will gather at the Silverdale Waterfront Park for a 1-mile suicide prevention walk. Before the walk, Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown will be a guest speaker along with local suicide survivors, including lifelong Kitsap County resident, Leigh Manheim who lost her son, Garth, to suicide in 2001.

“We do this in his memory, we’re making real progress here. I’m really proud of Kitsap County ... and how much we’ve been able to accomplish,” Manheim said. “We are the most active county in the state (for suicide prevention).”

Manheim said that although the nationwide numbers of teen suicide have been declining, anyone who’s depressed has a high risk of suicide.

“We really want to caution parents,” Manheim added. “I’ve heard heart-breaking stories ... It’s a very sad affair.”

Before the walk, Central Kitsap Junior High School ninth-grader Zach Whitchurch will be presented with an award for winning the countywide suicide prevention poster contest. The poster features a person walking alone with his shadow behind him.

“I am very excited,” Whitchurch said, adding that he was inspired after losing his close friend to suicide when he was in the seventh grade. “Anything to do with raising awareness.”

Angel Whitchurch, Zach’s mother, said he is very skilled in the graphic design field.

“We are extremely proud of him,” Angel added. “Zach is a very creative young man.”

Whitchurch explained he sees how fellow students act at school and he wants to use his “graphic design talent to help raise awareness.”

Participants in the walk will be offered poster materials to make signs for the walk to help support someone suffering from depression or in remembrance of those lost to suicide. Chatwood said the walk will loop from the Silverdale Waterfront Park to the stop light on Silverdale Way and Kitsap Mall Boulevard and back. A light snack will be provided before the walk for participants.

For more information regarding the walk or Kitsap Suicide Prevention Week, call Chatwood at (360) 337-5279 or visit www.yspp.org/communityAction/commEvents.htm.

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