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Students organize walk to raise awareness of suicide in Burlington

The group is expecting hundreds to show up Friday afternoon for the walk that is tackling suicide head-on by raising awareness.

BURLINGTON, Iowa — Editor's note: If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are resources available. Call or text 988 anytime to be connected with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services reports suicide continues to be an "important cause of death in Iowa, particularly among younger Iowans." 

The department also reports that suicide is many times more common than homicide in the state. 

In 2021, Iowa saw 541 deaths by suicide, with 3.1% of those deaths being teens. High school students in Burlington are trying to tackle that issue head-on by raising awareness of available help and talking about what they are going through. 

Burlington, which is in Des Moines County, reported six deaths from suicide in 2021. 

On Friday, April 28, Burlington High School's Bring Change to Mind organization will hold its second annual "Walk to Fight Suicide." It starts at 3:30 p.m. at Bracewell Stadium, which is located at 919 Market Street, and ends at the Port of Burlington.

Bring Change to Mind's current president Stephen Kastantin, who's a senior at Burlington, joined the group in 2022 because of his own walk through mental health conditions. 

"They were very uplifting and very helpful in most ways," Kastantin said. 

He shared he had been struggling with some depression and anxiety for a while and spoke to his mom, asking for some help. After a meeting with a doctor, Kastantin said he got the help he needed. Now he is eager to share his experience so others struggling can get help.

When asked about what he wants his community to know about mental health, Kastantin said he wants them to take it seriously.

"I want them to know that they're not alone, that you can reach out to whomever and people will always reach back and help you out as best they can," he said.

Bring Change to Mind meets weekly to talk about topics like how to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. 

The walk happening Friday is a free event, with its sole focus on raising awareness. However, Kastantin said if someone wants to take this time to donate to an organization that is on the front lines of helping people with suicide prevention, to consider supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

According to the AFSP, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34 in Iowa. In Illinois, suicide is the third leading cause of death in the same age group.

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