On Saturday morning, students, faculty and community members walked the perimeter of Binghamton University’s Brain, the main road that circles campus, for the Out of the Darkness Walk, a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
The Out of the Darkness Walk aims to raise awareness of suicide, especially on college campuses, and to educate the community on the resources available for people struggling with mental health. Mar Santos, co-chair for the walk and a first-year graduate student studying social work, wrote in an email that the walk fosters a sense of community on a college campus.
“The walk is an opportunity to connect people who may have experienced their own thoughts of suicide,” Santos wrote. “Or who have lost a loved one to suicide. It’s an event to remind you that you are not alone.”
The Out of the Darkness Walk was first brought to BU in 2013 by a student who lost their father to suicide. Joanna Zhang, co-chair of the walk and a senior double-majoring in sociology and anthropology, said she has always supported the cause of better mental health, but recently felt the difficulties firsthand.
“I was a big advocate for mental health, and I like doing things regarding up keeping mental health, like educating people on it,” Zhang said. “But I didn’t realize how hard it is to to deal with it until I had to do it.”
Many of the attendees noted a personal struggle with mental health as a reason for their support. Anabelle Liu, a junior majoring in Asian and Asian American studies, said she feels that the walk helps tackle the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide.
“My [sorority] sisters and I participate in it every year, and personally, I think it’s a good thing to be a part of, because I know what this is like as a person who has mental health issues,” Liu said. “It’s definitely something that needs to be more talked about and brought to light, because not everyone talks about it or is comfortable talking about it.”
Other attendees came out because they had experienced the tragedy of losing a child, spouse, parent or friend to suicide. Janette Hicks, 58, of Greene, New York, came with a friend who lost a child and said she wants to help prevent this for others.
“I am here to support a friend who lost a son to suicide,” Hicks said. “And we’re just here today to show our support and hopefully raise some money so that maybe somebody else won’t lose their son.”
Robert France, board chair for the South Central New York chapter of the AFSP, said joining the foundation helped with his personal loss.
“My wife and I lost our son — now it’s been seven years ago — to suicide, and we found it comforting to get involved,” France said. “We felt if we could do something to help save other people, then it’s worth it.”
Nicole DeCelle, area director for the Capital Region and South Central New York chapters of the AFSP, said she was inspired by the turnout on Saturday and thinks BU is taking steps in the right direction for the fight against suicide.
“It’s always so heartwarming to see the number of students, community members, faculty members and community organizations that come out to support the campus walks,” DeCelle said. “I think that it is so vital to get the messages of hope, the resources and the awareness out there on our campuses and to create stronger and suicide-safe communities, and we’re so grateful that Binghamton has been part of that.”