By Maximillian Burgos
In partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the College sponsored the “Out of the Darkness” campus walk on Sunday, April 7 at 10 a.m. in Alumni Grove. The walk showed support for those who have lost loved ones to suicide, as well as anyone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts.
Representatives from AFSP attended the walk to deliver a message of unity, educate students and support the grieving community. The goal of the organization is to reduce the annual U.S. rate of suicide by 20 percent by the year 2025, according to its website.
President Kathryn Foster and Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Sean Stallings gave supportive remarks before the walk began.
“We recognize that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people,” Foster said. “We have an ethical responsibility to take a proactive approach to help prevent suicide and (promote) mental health awareness. We also recognize that we all play a key role in creating an environment that provides support and promotes healthy development.”
Participants included members of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority, who took charge in fundraising. The group raised more than $3,500 in support of the cause.
The sisters also had a strong social media presence leading up to the walk in remembrance of Jenna DiBenedetto, a treasured member of the sorority who died earlier this year.
The College as a whole had raised $12,411, which more than doubled its goal of $5,000.
“I think that it is really important to see all the people here today,” said Dixita Malatesta, a learning specialist in the Disability Support Services department at the College. “Everyone here knows that this is an important cause that impacts everyone. To be out and support those who have been affected by suicide through the loss of a loved one and support those who have had thoughts of suicide is absolutely an important thing.”
Many participants wore different colored beads to show how suicide has affected their lives, whether through the loss of a loved one or through their own personal struggle.
Dan Martinez, a senior interactive multimedia major, opened up about his personal struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts.
“The way I climbed out of my darkness is different than most,” Martinez said. “I had a wake-up call during intense therapy and self-reflection. I realized that in order for things to change, I needed to proactively make them change. We can try and help people as much as we can, but the most important thing is to show them the value to life and help them move proactively toward that realization.”