Suicide awareness and prevention
KINGSTON – Chalk markings of hopeful messages were found on sidewalks at the University of Rhode Island Kingston campus on Oct. 20, after the University’s fifth Out of the Darkness Community Walk. Hundreds of University of Rhode Island community members gathered to raise awareness and money for suicide prevention at the walk, which began with activities outside the URI Memorial Union.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, together with URI’s Feinstein Civic Engagement Program, organized this event. “Suicide prevention and awareness is now more important than ever,” said Sarah G. Miller, coordinator of URI’s Feinstein Civic Engagement Program. “With the awareness that suicide has for years had a terrible impact on college populations, we here at URI are proud to do our part to address this public health crisis. National reports have also shown that our returning service men and women are particularly vulnerable.”
This year, the Out of the Darkness walk was designed to get participants in a positive frame of mind. “We want our students to know that they are going to have a big impact on this issue and on mental health in general,” Miller said. “First, they are going to be a major voice on the campus, letting the depressed, despondent and suicidal know that they can get help. Second, they will be raising money for the national foundation and most of that money, in turn, will directly benefit our Counseling Center.”
Several booths were set up at the event where participants could register, buy T-shirts and receive informational fliers. During the first hour of the event, participants socialized and played games while music played. Activities included making posters and a limbo contest, with a T-shirt prize for the winner. Miller says that the event is held “to celebrate the lives of those we have lost and to recognize the hope we bring to those who are struggling.”
URI hopes to raise $8,000 this year for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. On the day of the event, $3,600 was raised and donations will be collected until Dec. 31. After returning from the walk, community members were invited inside the URI Memorial Union to watch a video about college students who support suicide prevention.
The Out of the Darkness Community Walks are three to five miles long and will take place in more than 250 communities across the country this year, with proceeds benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The foundation aims to prevent suicide and save lives, increase national awareness about depression and suicide, and provide support for survivors of suicide loss. In deciding to walk, URI participants are helping to make suicide prevention a national priority.
Justin Willner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a fifth-year journalism student at URI.