Campus walk raises suicide awareness

Suicide—it’s a topic that’s rarely spoken about, but continues to silently affect many people. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 41,149 Americans took their lives in 2013. Sisters Making a Change emphasized the importance of ending the silence and stigma regarding mental illness by holding their third annual Out of the Darkness Walk on Sunday April 26, Geneseo’s Out of the Darkness Walk began in 2012 when a member of SMAC with a personal connection to mental illness first reached out to AFSP about an interest in bringing a walk to campus. Now, AFSP annually provides them with the flyers, route markers and T-shirts for the event.

This year’s walk started at the Knight Spot at 11 a.m. with registration and refreshments catered by Tim Hortons. “We had approximately 50 attendees,” SMAC co-service chair junior Jane Skinner said. After an introductory speech, participants took a two mile walk through campus, returning afterward to the Knight Spot for an after party with more refreshments and raffled off of prizes.

“A lot of girls in SMAC have personal connections to mental illness,” Skinner said.

In the shadow of Relay for Life, it can be a struggle to get a high number of people to attend. “We mostly just rely on our good friends to come, but we do our best to get the word out there,” Skinner said.

Even though attendance rates have remained steady for the past three years, the amount of money raised has increased. This year, the event saw its highest total to date. “Not including the bake sale profits, we have raised approximately $1,800 of our $2,000 goal,” Skinner said.

Coinciding with last week’s events funded by Pathways and Psychology Club, the walk strives to raise awareness, start a conversation, offer a support system and promote connection between people who are battling with mental illness. Unique to the Geneseo campus, Pathways is a confidential peer-to-peer based program that is able to provide support for students who are going through stressful and emotional times.

“We need to stop the stigma surrounding mental illness,” Skinner said. “If you or someone you know is suffering, reach out. There are a lot of resources around; if someone isn’t comfortable with Pathways, close friends and family can be just as helpful.”