Cassopolis organization to host walk honoring National Suicide Prevention Month

Published 12:51 pm Thursday, September 16, 2021

CASSOPOLIS — Representatives of an area advocacy organization will be taking to the streets later this month to spread a simple message: “you are not alone.”

Cassopolis organization LEE, the League for Encouraging Empowerment, will host a Walk of Hope starting at 3 p.m. Sept. 26. The walk, hosted in honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, will start at United Presbyterian Church, 209 E. State St., Cassopolis, and end at Stone Lake Beach. The event will feature speakers from those who have loved lost ones to suicide and mental health experts from Woodlands Behavioral Health Network. LEE representatives will wear shirts bearing the phrase “you are not alone.”

“We are not mental health experts, but we are advocates,” said Carmen Lee Peake, president of LEE. “We are trying to get the awareness out, and we thought this march would be a good way to do that. We have to start talking. We have to have a dialogue, and this is the first step.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S. in 2019, claiming the lives of more than 47,500 residents.

Peake said she has seen that suicide and depression affect Cass County, even though it is not often discussed. She hopes the Sept. 26 walk will help break the stigma surrounding mental health and let residents know there are resources out there to help them.

The walk comes as LEE launches a new committee called Advocates for Restoring Minds, which aims to advocate for mental health awareness in the Cass County community.

“Suicide and depression are silent diseases that have been hovering over Cass County for years without any program that is dedicated to mental health awareness,” Peake said. “There have been suicides over the past several years within the area that have ranged from youth to senior citizens, yet no one has shed light on this. … We recognize that although we have resources such as Woodlands in our community, there is still a dire need to bridge the gap for those who are in desperate need and resources like Woodlands.”

The walk and mental health advocacy are just one component of what LEE does in the Cass County community. The organization promotes many programs including educational tools, job training, tutoring and more.

“We are trying to help any way we can in the community,” Peake said. “Just like doctors want to treat the whole patient, we want to treat the whole community.”

Peake hopes to see the Walk for Hope become a successful annual event.

“This is for all of Cass County,” Peake said. “This the first step. We want to do this every year, and also other things throughout the year. This is not a one and done.”

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