Dear Editor:

As Mayor of Chatham Township I have made a concerted effort to increase awareness of suicide prevention. My interest in doing so stems from my early days on the Committee when I learned of a young father who died by suicide.

While I did not know the individual, I committed myself, with the support of the Township Committee, to do whatever we could to help increase awareness of this important topic. As a first step, earlier this year we hosted a Talk Saves Lives community-based presentation in conjunction with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, a replay of which can be found on the Township website (http://bit.ly/2aoTsWs).

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More recently, we proclaimed September, “American Foundation for Suicide Prevention” month in Chatham Township, and this Saturday, Sept. 24, Chatham Township will host its inaugural Out of the Darkness Community Walk (www.afsp.org/chathamtwp)

If one were to base the success of the walk on the amount of funds raised, it would already be considered an overwhelming success as we have raised approximately $40,000, four times our original goal. Importantly though, we have more than 400 people participating. Residents from the Chathams and the surrounding communities of Summit, Madison, Millburn, Short Hills and elsewhere are participating. It’s our hope that all this walking will lead to talking, which is what we need to help remove the stigma when it comes to suicide prevention.

Suicide touches one in five American families and we hope that by walking we save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. Suicide does not discriminate, so whether you’re able to participate this weekend or not, please consider having a conversation with your family and friends; remind them that suicide is now the nation's tenth-leading cause of death, and the second-leading cause of death for Americans aged 15-34 years old. If we are able to help one person think twice about suicide then we will have succeeded.

Curt Ritter

Mayor, Chatham Township

Township Community Walk website at www.afsp.org/chathamtwp. Registration begins at 9:00 a.m. Opening ceremony begins at 10 a.m.