A national suicide prevention foundation plans Missoula Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk for Saturday, Sept. 14, in Silver Park to bring the Missoula community hope and awareness of resources.
Greg Harris lost his son, Andrew, to suicide last January and will be walking on Saturday with family and friends to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and help raise awareness about suicide prevention.
Andrew was a Griz linebacker from Kalispell, following in the footsteps of his father and older brother. Harris described Andrew as kind and charismatic. He went to every practice and every study session and never complained, Harris said.
Harris has seen the effects of depression and suicide with his family and his community in Kalispell. Montana has the highest suicide rate in the nation by capita, according to the AFSP.
“It’s around us everyday and every month, but it isn’t being addressed. I know what it feels like and how it affects everyone,” Harris said.
Lex Hilliard, a former Griz and NFL running back, knew Andrew personally and plans to join Harris at the walk. Because of football, Hilliard also saw the effect of post-concussion syndrome on the mental health of football players.
“I’ve had several of my friends struggle with depression and post-concussion syndrome. Everyone knows someone who knows someone,” Hilliard said.
The AFSP has organized over 400 Out of the Darkness walks across the country, and Missoula’s walk is in its fourth-consecutive year. The goal of the AFSP Montana chapter is to raise $60,000 at the Missoula walk, and have already raised just over $40,000, as of Thursday. Donations will go toward research and resources. Half of the donations will stay locally in Montana and half will go toward the national foundation.
“Our intention is to bring the community together for hope and awareness, because suicide can be a preventable thing,” said AFSP Montana board member Nancy Yates.
Participants can register online until Friday at noon or walk up and register on Saturday at the walk. Check-in for walkers is at noon on Saturday and will start at 1 p.m.