Pleasant Hill, Missouri            Wednesday,  September 20, 2017                ©2017 Pleasant Hill Times

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Suicide Prevention 5K Run raises awareness and offers support to those coping with suicide loss

Pictured above: (left) First place finisher Johnny Blomquist of Butler, Mo.; (right) from left to right - Lisa Huerter of Pleasant Hill, first place female finisher; Lauren Wittig of Pleasant Hill and Emily Collins of Raytown. Not pictured: second place female finisher, Cynthia Farmer of Lone Jack and second place male finisher, Jim Gregory of Pleasant Hill.

...The Midnight Moonlight 5K Run for Suicide Prevention was held Friday, September 8. Medals were handed out to the first and second place male and female finishers. First place overall went to Johnny Blomquist of  Butler, Mo. with a time of 21:09, beating the time from the Cass County Fair 5K run. Johnny said he decided to run because it was a good cause and because he is recuperating from a car accident and trying to be active. Second place runner Jim Gregory of Pleasant Hill finished with a time of 30:15.
...Jim started running two months ago and decided to attend the event because it was for a good cause.
...The event was hosted by Pleasant Hill Parks and Recreation in conjunction with American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Spokesperson for the organization, Caroline Allen opened the event by encouraging people to talk to their friends and family members and to recognize that it is hard for people to take their first step in asking for help in the grief journey.
... “Suicide is a unique type of loss,” said Caroline. “We want to do what we can to recognize signs and prevent it, and also to offer resources to those who have been affected by suicide.”
...Caroline shared that she lost her husband to suicide in 2010 and in January 2011 started working with AFSP. “I couldn’t sit at home and do nothing. I always said I wouldn’t let my husband’s death defeat me so I got involved. I started a support group in Harrisonville for loss survivors. Suicide loss is unlike any other kind of loss.”
...Another volunteer, Tracy Hopkins, shared that she is starting a support group. “I started going to Caroline’s support group after losing my son three years ago. I have learned more about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and am now starting my own support group in Parksville,” said Tracy. Lauren, another AFSP volunteer, was also directly affected by the suicide of her son. She has been volunteering with the AFSP for three years.
...City of Pleasant Hill officials, the AFSP volunteers and the crowd of runners joined together after the 5K for a candlelight vigil in the gazebo downtown. After a brief reading, each person shared the name of the person they lit their candle for.
...According to the The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Facebook page, they are the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
...To fully achieve its mission, AFSP engages in the following five core strategies: funding scientific research; offering educational programs for professionals; educating the public about mental disorders and suicide prevention; promoting policies and legislation that impact suicide and prevention; providing programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss and people at risk, and involve them in the work of the Foundation.
...The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Facebook page is a forum to communicate news and information and to create a community among individuals concerned about suicide prevention, coping with suicide loss and living with a mental illness.
...AFSP does NOT offer crisis intervention. If you are in crisis, please call 800-273-TALK (8255). If you are worried that someone in your life is suicidal, call the same number and they will help you.

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