NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – People in Niagara Falls are raising awareness of suicide prevention one step at a time. Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative held its second annual Walk With Us, a 5K wellness walk to bring people together to share resources and prevent suicide rates from rising.

“We connect together, we heal better together, and walking is a huge way to boost your overall mental health and well-being,” Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative co-chair Brian Archie said during Sunday’s event.

Suicide prevention is a topic that hits very close to home for Archie.

“We’ve all been facing many challenges you know due to COVID-19, and folks mental health was suffering. April for me was a particularly heartwarming month,” he said. “I myself had a son, my oldest son who had died by suicide.”

As the nine-year anniversary of his son’s passing approaches, he says this event is meant to help people, who’ve experienced similar trauma in their lives.

“This is really just like to uplift, we get better together, we heal better together, by learning each other and being connected with one another as a community,” he said. “In that same vain we are able to connect to resources that we might not normally do on our own we it’s brought in the communal type of setting.”

“Post-COVID people have struggled more. With the social isolation, being stuck at home, we want connection and that’s our whole mission through AFSP, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,” AFSP board member and chair Lauren Calabrese said.

In Erie County, Jessica Pirro with Crisis Services says death by suicide rates have gone down over the last two years in the county. However, the rates within teens and young adults are going up, not just in Erie county but statewide.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, death by suicide is the third leading cause of death in New York state for people ages 10-24.

“Those trends have been pretty consistent for a while, it’s how we attack those trends, how we make sure that those around our children are trained in a way to be aware of the signs and symptoms to look for, as well as assuring our young children that they always have somebody they can go and talk to,” Pirro said.

“One of the things we’ve made sure as a community to do, is not only highlight the services available, like our 24-hour hotline at crisis services but also normalizing talking about mental health during this time,” Pirro added.

The 24-hour hotline for Crisis Services is (716) 834-3131.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.