Saturday morning is a good time to take a walk in Lake Havasu City. It will be doubly-good if there’s a point to taking the stroll.

For a few hundred people, walking along Rotary Beach and Bridgewater Channel does have a purpose: To raise awareness about suicide and ways to prevent it. The #YOUmatter Suicide Awareness & Prevention Walk kicks off at 7:30 a.m. with a rally at Rotary Park’s Ramada C. The walk begins at 8 a.m.

“I’ll be the first one off the line,” said Bob Feliciano. He’s one of the organizers of the walk and helped found #YOUmatter in Havasu three years ago. The free support group meets monthly at the Havasu Community Health Foundation. It offers peer-to-peer discussions and confidential counseling for its members.

“We’ve got about 250 people pre-registered for the walk, but there’s room for many more. Just show up and register at Rotary Beach on Saturday. It’s our biggest fund raiser of the year,” Feliciano said. The cost is $25.

Staging the walk on Sept. 14 is no coincidence. Feliciano said Saturday is the last day of Suicide Prevention Week in the United States. Also, Governor Doug Ducey declared the month of September as Teen Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in Arizona to raise awareness about teen suicide and highlight ongoing efforts to prevent it. It is estimated that more than 10,000 teens in Arizona attempted suicide in 2017, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

Suicide has become a public health concern in the U.S. Over the last two decades, the suicide rate in the United States has sharply increased by nearly 25%, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control. Suicide now claims more lives than automobile accidents each year.

There have been 11 suicides in Havasu in 2019 through Aug. 7. The youngest was 20 years old; the oldest was 89. 2019’s numbers reflect a dreadful trend in Havasu. In 2018, there were 20 suicides (youngest age 26; oldest, age 94). In 2017, there were 13 (youngest, age 14; oldest, age 92). In 2016, there were 18 (youngest, age 16; oldest, age 82). In 2015, there were 19 (youngest, age 22; oldest, age 83). In 2014, there were 21 (youngest, age 14; oldest, age 87).

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