AROUND NJ

‘Freezing for a Reason’ Polar Bear Plunge for Suicide Prevention

By Erin Pedrini
Web Production Assistant

2013 “Freezing for a Reason” polar bear plunge. Photo courtesy: Lauren Washburn.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America, with someone dying from suicide every 13.7 minutes. To help spread awareness about suicide, New Jerseyans Lauren and Drew Washburn have organized the Second Annual “Freezing for a Reason AC” polar bear plunge for Sunday, Feb. 23. The event will raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national non-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those immediately impacted by suicide,” Lauren said.

The Washburns decided to organize the event because suicide has touched their families in a couple of ways. “In 2000, my husband lost his father to suicide and in 2012, we lost my uncle to suicide. Both of these events altered our lives forever. Through our conversations with other people, we learned that this is happening far more than was being spoken about,” said Lauren.

Lauren said what also prompted her and her husband to organize this event was attending their first suicide prevention event called “Out of the Darkness,” which are walks held all over America, including New Jersey, by AFSP to raise money for the organization. Lauren said that at the walk, she had the opportunity to meet and talk to many families that were struggling with the loss of a family member or friend, dealing with the repercussions from a family member’s attempt at taking their life, walking to celebrate their own life, or were simply there to support a community struggling with a problem.

“Both of these personal losses, and learning how many others are affected every day, drove us to organize this event, in hopes of creating awareness,” Lauren said.

Lauren said that at a walk, she met a group called Cop2Cop, which is a support system for members of law enforcement who may be struggling internally. They shared facts and figures with Lauren, which she found shocking since her uncle was a member of the law enforcement community.

The Atlantic City Police Department and the Atlantic City Fire Department will be participating in the event and ACPD President of PBA Local #24 Paul Barbere said, “One of my duties is to assist members with any issues they may have. Unfortunately personal problems are difficult to express. I think it is even more difficult when a police officer is having personal issues. Police are called to solve problems when others cannot. So the mindset of a police officer is that they should be able to solve any problem, even their own. In my 24 years with the ACPD, I have unfortunately seen rookie officers, seasoned officers and even veteran supervisors¬†unable to cope with their issues. Not only in law enforcement, but everyone needs to know that there is always help for any situation, and I hope this event sends that message.”

Last year, “Freezing for a Reason” raised a little more than $4,000. This year the Washburns hope to raise more than $5,000, but mostly hope to raise awareness.

“The word suicide has such a stigma surrounding it. Suicide happens in every corner of the world, and in every corner of society — the rich, the poor, the young and the old. It touches everyone in some way, at some point in their life,” Lauren said.

The event is being held on the beach at St. James Place, in front of The Irish Pub, in Atlantic City. Registration is at noon and the plunge will take place at 12:10 p.m. The minimum donation to participate is $25. There will be a “warm-up” event afterward at The Irish Pub and during the event, the Toys for Kids program will be providing hot cocoa for those participating.

Participants running into the ocean at the 2013 “Freezing for a Reason” event. Photo courtesy: Lauren Washburn.

Lauren said that doing a polar bear plunge as the event was her husband Drew’s idea. “We were trying to think of things that would raise money and could gain the attention of a large group, and I will say, without a doubt, when you tell someone that you are jumping in the ocean in February, you have their instant attention,” Lauren said.

Anyone who would like to participate in the plunge or donate to the cause can do so on the “Freezing for a Reason” event page.

Lauren said, “We’re raising money and donations are very important to be able to continue to do research. The awareness and prevention has the potential for very high-reaching effects.”