Kent community to join together to prevent student suicide


Families and friends gathered for awareness and in remembrance of loved ones for the Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk Saturday, April 13, 2013.

Julia Sprowls

Kent State’s College of Education, Health and Human Services is sponsoring the second annual Out of the Darkness campus walk to raise awareness about suicide prevention on campus.

Teresa Rishel, the teaching, learning and curriculum associate professor organizing the event, said suicide is the third leading cause of death in college students.

“We’re fighting against the stigma and silence of suicide,” Rishel said. “We have students suffering out there on this very campus, and they don’t know who to go to.”

Rishel is a member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP, who hosts these campus walks all over the country. Kent State’s walk will be held April 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. The walk will start at Risman Plaza, and walkers have the option of either a three-mile loop or a five-mile loop on campus sidewalks. All Kent students, staff, faculty, community members, friends and family are welcome.

“We have a huge population of college kids in this country that are suffering from depression that leads to suicide or suicidal behaviors,” Rishel said. “That’s why we wanted to target this population.”

Karen Tollafield graduate assistant in the Department of Administration Affairs and Graduate Education walked in the fundraiser last year as part of a team. This year, she is captain of her own team and is helping to organize the event with Rishel. Tollafield said she thinks this walk will increase people’s awareness of the problem and have them ask themselves what they can do to help.

“Hopefully we’ll bring people to the resources they need, whether they’re trying to support someone who is struggling or someone who is struggling themselves,” Tollafield said.

The event has already raised more than $6,000 with 113 registered participants. Rishel said she expects both numbers to continue rising before and during the walk.

Rishel and Tollafield have both been personally affected by suicide.

“This walk is one of those ways to keep going and to show people that have lost someone or are struggling with it that we’ll go on together,” Rishel said.

To view a counter of funds raised thus far or to register for the event, visit their website at:

Additionally, AFSP help is available at their hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Contact Julia Sprowls at [email protected].