Published September 26, 2023 at 12:48 PM EDT

Central New Yorkers are being encouraged to create colorful chalk messages this week in an effort to give hope to those struggling with mental health issues. The third annual “Chalk the Walk” event is one way the community is marking Suicide Prevention Month. The chalk drawings or notes on sidewalks — in front of homes, businesses, and schools — are meant to normalize conversations about mental health and remind vulnerable people that they are not alone.

Kristine Knutson is Community Programs Manager at Contact Community Services, which is helping organize the event.

“We’re encouraging people to put it in their spaces, whether it’s at work, at school, at their agency,” Knutson said “We even have some churches, businesses, group homes, nursing homes, libraries, colleges and universities throughout Onondaga County.”

She encourages people to share their creations to tag them on social media using @OCSPC315 on Instagram, @OnondagaCountySuicidePrevention on Facebook, and the hashtag #CNYSavesLives. Knutson says in rainy weather, or where sidewalk art is banned, people have found other creative ways to show support.

“They’re using dry erase markers to do it on windows, or for doors or mirrors or other settings or some places are doing it on paper and posting it,”

Knutson said. “I think there’s a lot of therapeutic value and in drawing and writing things as well.”

Chalk the Walk runs through Friday and is also organized by the Onondaga County Suicide Prevention Coalition. Knutson says the stigma around mental health often prevents people who are having suicidal thoughts from reaching out.

“I think it’s important to know that for any of these services, we want people to call before it’s at an emergency level,” Knutson said. “I think sometimes people hold it in and they think, ‘well, my problem isn’t big enough.’ We want to talk to people before they get to that point.”

Contact operates a crisis intervention and counseling hotline for those contemplating suicide or just have general concerns at (315) 251-0600. The national hotline is 988.


Chalk messages aim to spread hope for those struggling with mental illness | WAER