Philadelphia father "Walks Out of the Darkness" for son who died by suicide

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- "It's often an outgoing, happy, lacrosse-playing boy and all of a sudden he's gone," said Scott Godshall of his son, Peter.

In August of 2014, Scott got a phone call at 6:00am, learning his son had taken his own life.

"You never get over suicide. Time does not heal all wounds," he said. "Maybe it doesn't heal any wounds. I don't know," he said.

Scott's Queen Village family sought answers and activism after the 21-year-old college student passed away. They found the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, of which Scott is now the Board Chair.

Every year, the nationwide foundation schedules a bevy of epic events known collectively as the "Walk Out of the Darkness." Philadelphia's event, which typically sees thousands rally at the Art Museum, had to be diffused due to COVID-19.

Still, traditions continued from a distance. Opening ceremonies and fundraising outreach was broadcasted virtually this morning. Across the Greater Philadelphia Area, small groups efforted walks, runs, and more to shine a spotlight on suicide prevention.

"It's a real public health crisis," said Sosunmolu Shoyinka, the Chief Medical Officer of the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. "We have seen a rise in suicide rates over the past year 16.7% specifically over the last year compared with the previous year," he said.

"We think some of that may be the impact of COVID," Shoyinka said. He highlighted social isolation, economic issues, depression, anxiety, and an increase in substance abuse as added stressors that have resulted from the global pandemic.

The city of Philadelphia offers numerous avenues to receive help. For example, Healthymindsphilly.org offers incredible resources for mental health first aid. Additionally, the city has a 24-hour mental help line, which can be reached at 215-685-6440.
Activists like Scott Godshall hope to break negative stigmas surrounding the topic of mental health and encourage everyone to utilize these resources without shame.

"There are still people who don't want anyone to know they're seeing a psychiatrist or a social worker or a psychologist," Scott said. "It's ok to talk about that and it's something a lot of people would benefit from."

In addition, breaking the stigma can be as simple as breaking the ice in a conversation.

"I think the message is keep fighting. That's what we do. It doesn't always look like fighting. Sometimes, it looks like having a cup of coffee with someone," Scott said. "Y'know, there's no alternative than to keep working on it."

Anyone interested in learning more about ASFP Philadelphia or DBHIDS can visit their websites.

The National Suicide Prevention line can be reached 24/7 with free and confidential help at 800-273-8255.

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