BALDWINSVILLE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 35 years old. This is a statistic that Robert Helfrich, creator of Life Worth Living 5k, did not realize.
“I had no idea how broad and expansive the problem really is until you start living in this journey. And from that perspective, it’s shocking,” said Helfrich.
Helfrich created the running event because he lost his 19-year-old son Zach to suicide in 2019. The running event is Helfrich’s way to bring awareness to the issue.
“It’s somewhat therapeutic because I can go out and I can do something and help others and have this community event at a point of time that you know, is typically for a family a time of much sadness,” said Helfrich.
The event is held at Abbott Farms in Baldwinsville. The same place Zach used to work.
“He loved working here. He would during the fall festival he would make the carmel apples,” said Helfrich.
The race weaves throughout the farm and down the orchards. One of the most touching points of the race is when runners go through the memorial orchard where the names and faces of up to 30 people that died from suicide are displayed.
“As far as you can see up the row of apple trees, nothing but pictures of folks who lost their life,” said Helfrich. “And they’re all local folks. And most of them are young, young men and women and some teenagers who had succumbed to suicide.”
In addition to holding an event that brings awareness to suicide and honors Zach’s memory, money raised from the event will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and Upstate Medical University’s High Risk Program.
“Suicide attempts have gone up a lot, especially youth and young adults, around 30 percent increase suicide completions,” said Dr. Robert Gregory, founder of the Upstate High Risk Program. “A lot of people struggle with suicidal suicide thoughts. You never want to think of someone you love actually having that struggle or being at risk.”
Upstate’s program is one of the only high risk focused programs in the country, and according to Gregory, their model has had positive success rates.
“We have had 90 percent recovery rates, remission rates, for depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. And that’s really kind of unheard of really amazing rates,” said Gregory.
At AFSP, the goal is to break the stigma surrounding suicide so that people having those thoughts can be treated.
“Our society still kind of tells us we, you know, as a male, you can’t speak up, you have to have that tough exterior,” said Stacy Taddeo, board member of AFSP. “When we do any educational program, either at a high school or a college, it’s all about speaking up and accepting that help.”
Taddeo lost her brother to suicide, and like Helfrich, uses her involvement with AFSP to bring awareness to a big issue.
“My brother, before he passed was under the assumption that he was too far gone. So we spread the message that there’s plenty of different things you can try,” said Taddeo. “Because you can feel better, you don’t have to have suicidal thoughts. There is something that can be done.”
The Life Worth Living event is set for August 15, right around the same time as Zach’s birthday.