Students Plan Walk to Raise Suicide Prevention Awareness

According to the Center for Disease Control, someone commits suicide every 14 minutes in the US. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, the center also found.

Promoting Wellness and Resiliency on Campus (PWR) is hosting its first annual Out of the Darkness Walk to raise awareness about suicide prevention on Wednesday, April 16. Registration for the two hour walk will begin at 5:45 pm and will start at 6 pm on the residential quad.

Jessica Ketch, president of the Active Minds campus chapter, said that because the incidence of suicide on college campuses is so high, it is important to have the walk and raise awareness about suicide prevention.

“I think it is important to have this walk because it stands for something that every college student can relate to,” said Ketch. “Everyone has been affected by suicide whether they know someone who attempted or have attempted themselves.”

The purpose of the walk, according to PWR, is to raise awareness about suicide prevention and mental health issues, and in particular to raise awareness about how suicide affects survivors. Donations are welcome, but not required for participation, and all of the proceeds will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

Activities during the walk will include live music, a DJ, games, activities, giveaways, and guest speakers. The event is open to the University community and all participants will receive a free PWR t-shirt.

Dr. Franca Mancini, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services who serves as the Co-Director for PWR programs said the Out of the Darkness Walk is a visual representation of the commitment that the University has demonstrated in addressing campus mental health over the years. “The support and care that our students experience in the campus community have greatly impacted our efforts to de-stigmatize mental health and access to care for our students,” said Mancini.

Each year, the AFSP hosts two Out of the Darkness overnight walks to raise awareness about suicide prevention which resemble the Relay for Life fundraiser because they both start in the evening and end in the morning.

The Out of the Darkness overnight walks take place in various cities across the nation each year. This year, the overnight walks will be held in Seattle, WA and Philadelphia, PA in June.

Promoting Wellness and Resiliency is a grant created by the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act named after former Senator Gordon Smith’s son who committed suicide in 2004 when he was in college. This year is the grant’s second active year.

The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also funds programs for approximately 68 other campuses, tribes, and states nationwide. The University has the second Garrett Lee Smith program in NJ.

The University received the grant in 2011 for $300,000 that will be dispersed in three payments of $100,000 each year. The money is mostly used to train employees and students on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicide and mental health while also learning how to communicate with those in need of help.

Dr. Scott, co-director for research on suicide prevention, said, “The focus on student and University awareness of suicide prevention this year has been really exciting. We look forward to a great walk and hope to see everyone coming out to be part of such important campus initiative.”

A significant portion of the funding from this grant is intended to be used among University students. PWR has been focusing this year on a student-driven public awareness campaign. A student mental health advisory board of about 30 members was created, as well as an Active Minds Campus Chapter that has recently been recognized by the Student Government Association. PWR is also working closely with local public service announcement producers.

“Suicide and mental health are still very heavily stigmatized issues in our society,” said Mancini. “For that reason it is important to educate people about the signs and symptoms, why someone might feel the need to take their own life, and what we can do to reduce their risk.”

Jason Cainiello, Vice President of Active Minds, says, “I believe that the Out of the Darkness Walk is important to have on Monmouth’s Campus primarily because it has never been done before. Suicide is a topic that not many people discuss, however by walking for this issue we can raise awareness on a topic that has a major impact on college campuses nationwide.”

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