NEW YORK — Hundreds will take part in the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk on Saturday in the fight against suicide. CBS2’s Cindy Hsu will be walking for the first time.
On Friday, Hsu spoke with a young man who has taken this emotional journey for years.
“I’ve been doing some longer walks these days in order to get ready. I got some new shoes today I got to start breaking in,” Justin Melnick said.
Melnick spoke about the 16-mile walk to raise money and awareness for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP. Hundreds will walk through the night until early Sunday morning.
Overnight walks have been held all over the country. This year, it’s back in New York City.
It will be Melnick’s third time walking for AFSP and he encourages anyone who has been touched by suicide or mental illness to join in.
“It was a life-changing event for me. I wouldn’t want anybody else to lose out on that experience,” he said.
Melnick first noticed something was wrong when he was 13 years old in middle school and diagnosed with depression.
“I remember being in 8th grade and those first feelings of dark hopelessness really started to creep in,” Melnick said.
He sought treatment with therapy, medication and lots of family support.
“Even though you can see a therapist and you can take medication, it truly requires work to help yourself,” said Michelle Melnick, Justin’s mom. “I think a lot of people don’t often do that and that leads to tragedy. So I’m just so grateful that Justin shared his struggle.”
The struggle continued. By his senior year in high school, Melnick was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and attempted suicide at 20.
“I was at a point in my life where I was feeling really, really hopeless. I was struggling personally, professionally and I didn’t see an out,” he said.
Melnick, now 23, is doing well today. He’s going for his Ph.D. at NYU. He’s still in treatment and doing things every day to stay mentally healthy.
“I like to run. I like to exercise. I like to take a good, long walk around the city and check in with family and friends,” Melnick said.
His mom has this advice for people with family or friends who are struggling:
“I would say just make sure you say as often as you possibly can, in words and actions, that you are here,” Michelle Melnick said. “Just reiterate that they have people out there that want to help them.”
They both say Saturday’s Overnight Walk is a time of gratitude and appreciation that they’re not alone.
CBS2 is a proud sponsor of the Overnight Walk, which kicks off Saturday at 7:30 p.m.