WHEELING - To help prevent another person from taking their own life, Wheeling resident Kelly Wilson Delaney is organizing a walk for suicide prevention titled ''Out of the Darkness.''
The non-competitive, 3-mile walk is slated for noon Oct. 27 at Grand Vue Park in Moundsville. She said anyone can attend including those who want remember a loved one lost to suicide. The walk benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Delaney's 18-year-old son, Austin Prager, died March 28 after committing suicide. Prager, a Wheeling Park High School senior and Army Reservist, had suffered from depression and bipolar disorder since he was 11 years old, Delaney said. She now believes the combination of his ongoing mental health issues combined with the deaths of family members contributed to him taking his life. Both his father and grandfather died of cancer and another relative committed suicide last January.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Wheeling resident Kelly Wilson Delaney holds a small poster promoting a suicide prevention walk Oct. 27 at Grand Vue Park, Moundsville.
''There was a lot of close loss he had to deal with. He started to show signs of anxiety and aggression. He had been in and out of counseling. Joining the military was one of the best things he felt he had ever done. ... He seemed to flourish in the Army and really enjoyed it. Looking back now, I can say, sure, he had a lot of the risk factors. But when you don't know what all the risk factors are, you don't piece them together. That's the goal of all of this - to get the risk factors out there and get the media involved, and get the stigma removed from behavioral mental health issues,'' she said. ''I just want people to seek help. ... This isn't something we can turn our back on. It is a national issue. ... I will take my last dying breath fighting for this and fighting for awareness, and trying to save (people), especially kids.''
Warning signs of suicide can include observable signs of serious depression, such as an unrelenting low mood, pessimism, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, psychic pain and inner tension, withdrawal, sleep problems, increased alcohol and/or other drug use, recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks, threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die, and unexpected rage or anger. Other warning signs can include a person making a plan, such as giving away prized possessions, sudden or impulsive purchase of a firearm, or obtaining other means of killing oneself such as poisons or medications, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Risk factors for suicide include having a psychiatric disorder such as bipolar or major depression, schizophrenia or post-traumatic stress disorder or other disorders; a past history of attempting suicide; a family history of suicide attempts, suicide or psychiatric illness; and impulsivity, as people who are impulsive are more likely to act on suicidal impulses.
The foundation also notes males are three to five times more likely to die of suicide than females.
And elderly white men have the highest rates of suicide.
After losing her son, Delaney started searching for some kind of help or support group online and discovered the foundation. She hopes someday to establish a local charter.
About 140 people already have signed up to walk, and $4,000 already has been raised. Donations will be taken during the walk. Some of Prager's friends, including Brad Forte and Bobby Crow, held a benefit concert this past summer in Valley Grove to raise money for the foundation.
''I was real proud of them. They're a good group of kids. They came together and supported each other,'' Delaney said.
Delaney said she would like to use money raised from the walk to purchase suicide prevention videos for Ohio Valley schools, and to hire related speakers to talk to students.
The foundation, she noted, has other ideas for use of the money, including training volunteer advocates.
For more information, call 304-975-4883 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.facebook.com/OutoftheDarknessWalkUpperOhioValleyRegion.