BELLEVILLE, Ill. – The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention held its annual ‘Out of the Darkness Walk’ in Belleville to raise awareness about suicide and mental health.

Hundreds of friends, families, neighbors and coworkers walked side-by-side to support each other, and in memory of those they’ve lost.

“The idea is to let everybody know that they are not alone. There are a lot of resources out there to help, and so that’s really what this walk is all about,” said advocate Chris Allard.

Allard is the Executive Director of a suicide awareness foundation called The Tenth Man. He started it in honor of his late brother, Jon Allard Jr., who died from suicide four years ago.

“My brother was an assistant state’s attorney for over 20 years, and actually worked just across the street for those 20 years. And he was what they called the murder trial and heinous crime expert, so it obviously took a toll on him in ways that we didn’t understand,” said Allard.

Allard is also the chairperson for this year’s St. Clair County American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. He says another purpose of the event is to help people be more comfortable talking about a topic that traditionally may not be easy to talk about.

“There certainly is still a stigma, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do, is to chip away at that stigma as much as possible. It’s a long journey,” said Allard.

The AFSP says on average, there are 130 suicides per day. In 2020,  45,979 people died by suicide. Allard said, for those still struggling, resources and help are available. He leaves them with this message.

“Give it one more day, and one more day hopefully turns into one more week, and one more year,” he said.

For more information and resources from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, click here.