Saturday, December 5th, 2020

Shopper Client Stories


HAMPTON ROADS MORNING OF HOPE

Replacing the stigma of depression and suicide with prevention, healing and hope

by Cristi Sanchez


Chris Gilchrist is the heart behind Hampton Roads’ Morning of Hope

Chris Gilchrist is the heart behind Hampton Roads’ Morning of Hope

The disease of depression affects 18.8 million people in America. For those who are not battling this medical condition, it might be hard to understand the crippling magnitude of this disease or its tragic symptom- suicide. The annual Hampton Roads Morning of Hope is an event with a mission to raise awareness of depression as a treatable disease, of suicide as a preventable tragedy, and to remove the stigma unfairly attached to both.

Committed to changing lives and making a difference, Chris Gilchrist, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist, is the heart behind Hampton Roads Morning of Hope. "This is our 14th year holding our event at Mt. Trashmore," she says proudly. "This walk is for anyone touched by depression or suicide. It starts at 8:00 a.m. on September 7th,  with a free breakfast provided by Chick Fil-a and Starbucks, followed by a beautiful remembrance ceremony, and culminating in a walk that begins at a beautiful curtain of origami cranes, the international symbol for healing, peace, and hope. There is also a tent providing three family activities."

Hampton Roads Morning of Hope is sponsored by the non-profit Hampton Roads Survivors of Suicide Support Group, Inc. (SOS), a bereavement group started 31 years ago for people who have lost loved ones to suicide.

It was an initiative born of the heart 15 years ago by three adult sisters in the SOS support group who were mourning the loss of their mother to suicide. Still raw after meeting with the group for a month, Rita Bell and her sisters asked Chris if they could do something in remembrance of their mom- an event that might help others dealing with the pain of losing a loved one to suicide while at the same time raising awareness of depression as a disease.


For the ninth year, Tom Schaad of WAVY-TV 10 <BR>will serve as the emcee of Hampton Roads Morning of Hope

For the ninth year, Tom Schaad of WAVY-TV 10
will serve as the emcee of Hampton Roads Morning of Hope


"My sisters and I wanted something good to come out of the tragedy of losing our mom," Rita states softly. "So, we asked Chris if we could organize an event in remembrance of her. Seeing that I wasn't alone really helped me to move forward- and we're helping so many people through our event. Chris has done a fabulous job keeping it up. God bless her!"

Chris' passion for helping people overcome heartbreak and tragedy and bringing understanding to the disease of depression and its devastating effects is evident. "It's so important to promote good mental health," Chris explains fervently. "Many events promote good physical health, but physical health and emotional health are linked."

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24. It is the tenth leading cause of death in America overall, and people who've lost a loved one to suicide are at five times greater risk for suicide themselves. "It's simply tragic, and it's preventable," Chris continues. "Our event honors people who have lost their battle, not with heart disease or cancer, but with the disease of depression, and it also helps people realize that there's hope for treatment and healing."


"People don't want to end their lives,
they just want to end their pain.
We strive to bring awareness and understanding
that will counter the stigma
of mental illness and suicide."

- Chris Gilchrist


The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. Because depression is a treatable medical condition, the tragedy of suicide is preventable. Depression comes with a host of symptoms that surpass ordinary sadness and grief, including emotional pain so severe and intense that people suffering from the disease can only focus on wanting to stop it.

"People don't want to end their lives, they just want to end their pain," Chris says softly with compassion. "We strive to bring awareness and understanding that will counter the stigma of mental illness and suicide. It's our hope that greater understanding will change people's perception of depression and suicide; that they'll realize depression is a complex medical condition of the brain that causes people to feel what they feel and do what they do."



Emceed for the ninth year by WAVY-TV 10's Tom Schaad, Hampton Roads Morning of Hope will raise that awareness and understanding with an informative and moving program of multiple speakers that includes those who have been personally touched by depression or suicide. They share their battles, promote awareness, and provide knowledge and hope. One anonymous attendee stated, "If I only knew then what I know now, my son would still be here." Another who survived her battle, attests, "I'm living proof that addiction, depression, and suicide are treatable."

While the event's mission is to raise awareness, it is also an opportunity to remember and celebrate love for those who struggled and lost their battle with depression. A memory wall is available for people to post names, photos, or notes to honor loved ones, and Tom Schaad will read the names of people to be remembered.

"It's very moving," Chris says. "It can be painful to hear names read, but the fellowship is healing, and people can see that they're not isolated in dealing with depression and suicide. It helps when they realize that they're not alone in dealing with this tragedy."

Hampton Roads Morning of Hope is the largest local event of its kind. All seven Hampton Roads cities and all five branches of the military participate in the event. Speakers often include high-ranking officers from each of those branches. "Because there are so many military members in that high-risk age group of 15-24, the tragedy of suicide frequently touches the lives of military families," Chris explains. "It also touches those outside that age group who are impacted by the horrors of war."

Civilians, too, can be touched by horror. "After the tragedy in Virginia Beach on May 31, this year's event has additional relevance- especially in regards to promoting good mental health, preventing depression, suicide, and perhaps mass shootings," Chris discloses. "Mayor Bobby Dyer will be in attendance. He and Chief Cervera feel this year's Morning of Hope can play an important role in helping the victims and survivors of that tragedy heal and move forward."

For people who have lost siblings, parents, children, or spouses to the disease of depression and the tragedy of suicide, Hampton Roads Morning of Hope surpasses being just an event. It's an outreach. It touches and teaches to bring awareness, prevention, healing, and hope.




Hampton Roads Morning of Hope

3802 Poplar Hill Road
Chesapeake, 23321

(757) 483-5111
http://hamptonroadssos-hope.org