Victoria Juvenile Probation Officer Senae Davidson wants to shed light on an issue that is complex and difficult to talk about – suicide prevention.
As chairwoman of the VTX Out of the Darkness Community Walk, she hopes the event can help save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.
The walk to fight suicide at Riverside Park on Saturday is just one of more than 550 such walks this year across the country.
Last year, walks raised more than $21 million for suicide prevention for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The suicide rate in Texas has increased by 19 percent since 1999, according to data released in June. The National Vital Statistics System reported about 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in 2016.
More than half of the people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.
Abby Vargas, a staff services coordinator at the Victoria Regional Juvenile Justice Center for the past 12 years, said she first tried to get the walk started in 2016.
“There were a lot of kids in our community that were taking their lives, and you always hear people say it’s time to do something, so I felt like it was the time to really do something,” she said.
Vargas reached out to the San Antonio chapter of the national nonprofit to see about starting a walk in Victoria.
They started planning, but the event couldn’t get off the ground because of Hurricane Harvey. The park was closed, and everyone was focused on recovery.
With a renewed commitment, Davidson and Vargas have been working with local counselors and community members to make the event happen this year.
While they are often able to connect the children who walk through the juvenile detention center’s doors with services, they want everyone to be aware of the resources available in the community.
Local sponsors for the VTX Out of the Darkness Walk include Chick-fil-A, Hartman Distributing and Colonial Funeral Home.
The pair is also working with Linda Acosta, services manager of Houston House Apartments, to organize a Survivor Day dinner.
Survivor Day falls Nov. 17 this year and is when the friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for healing and support.
Vargas said that ultimately they want to encourage people to talk about their mental health and realize that “it’s OK to not be OK.”