In 2020, Samaritans was set to participate in the TCS NYC Marathon for the first time! Our runners were chosen, their fundraising and training began… and the pandemic didn’t disappear like we hoped. Ultimately, the race was cancelled, but our team continues to fundraise for our programs and services! Hear from two of our team members who are Helpline volunteers about what supporting our programs means to them!
I began volunteering at Samaritans on the Helpline in 2018. I felt a very strong push to do my part for suicide prevention. The push came from experiencing the loss of people around me and more specifically seeing how it impacted the families and loved ones they left behind. The push also came from my passion for mental health and my own struggles with depression. As a woman of color who recognizes the importance of mental health, there is a responsibility for me to pass that along. According to some studies, although topics of mental health have become more widely accepted and less taboo, there are still mental health barriers in communities of color. Statistics prove that 25% of African Americans and 33% of Hispanic or Latinx adults seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites (National Alliance of Mental Health & McLean Hospital, 2020). I believe that part of the disparity is due to a lack of representation in mental health spaces. If I can run this marathon to bring awareness to suicide prevention to a group of people who is also very much struggling, then I can help de-stigmatize and, in turn, make people of color more comfortable with talking about and seeking mental health care.
After finding out that the marathon would be postponed, I was bummed but understanding. My main concern was fundraising during a time where so many people are financially unstable with a huge uncertainty around work. My decision to keep fundraising during this difficult time is not a light one as I also understand that resources for suicide prevention cannot wait. As a matter of fact, with this global pandemic and the rise of racial tension in this country, our fight for suicide prevention should be bigger than ever. At the start of the pandemic, I was able to raise the bulk of my money. I was surprised as to how many people resonate with Samaritans’ mission as much as I do and how important they believe the cause to be. It was humbling to see that people were willing to give during such a tough time.
As I mentioned, I was certainly disappointed when I learned that the marathon would be cancelled this year, as I was very much looking forward to running my first marathon. I spent a good amount of time reminding myself of all the things I am grateful for especially during a time where so many people are dying, are losing their jobs and are getting their world turned upside down. Putting my life into perspective has really helped me cope and process. I am excited to be able to run within the coming years.
During my sophomore year in high school, I lost a friend to suicide. In April 2018, I started volunteering at Samaritans on the Helpline. As a teen volunteer, I committed to answering calls at least once a week during a three-hour shift. It is hard to put into words the deep impact being on the Helpline has had on me. Now that I am in college, I take calls during my breaks and am grateful that I can still be part of this important work. From taking hundreds of calls, it is clear to me how pervasive sorrow and despair is in our country.
Whether it be a young teen or an older person, emotional pain and depression affect all kinds of people. I have realized how the stigma associated with depression and mental illness hinders many, often those who are most vulnerable, from seeking the support they need. I am humbled by the courageous people who reach out for help, and was proud to be on the other end of the phone. Through this work, I believe I have become a better listener, and I feel more comfortable talking to friends and family about issues regarding mental health.
In 2019, I decided to run the Boston Marathon for Samaritans. I actually ended up being the youngest person to run it that year which was very cool! During all of my training runs, I thought about why I am running, why Samaritans, and who I am running for, and these thoughts really made the training worth it. My friends and family were super encouraging of my running and really supportive of this great organization. Some of them have learned about Samaritans through my running the Marathon, and I am really happy to have helped raise awareness of a cause so important to so many.
My dad had actually run the Boston Marathon before, and this year we decided to run the New York Marathon together! Now that I’m in college in New Jersey, it felt like a great opportunity to try something new together in support of Samaritans. Although we were disappointed to not run NYC together this year, I feel so grateful to all the people who have supported me and helped me reach my fundraising goal this year and in years past. I know firsthand what a difference it makes to people receiving support from Samaritans. I am looking forward to when my dad and I can run the NYC marathon for Samaritans in the future!
To support the 2020 TCS NYC Marathon team and learn more about each runner’s story, please visit our team’s CrowdRise page.