Out of the Darkness campus walk raises awareness of suicide prevention

Julia Sprowls

Kent State hosted the second annual Out of the Darkness campus walk Saturday. The event raised awareness of suicide prevention and was sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Having the event the day before Easter Sunday did not hinder participation. Daniel Mahony, the dean of education, health and human services, said in a speech before the walk that there were twice as many walkers as last year. By the day of the walk, participants raised $10,000. Even Flash, the university mascot, made an appearance at the event.

T-shirts were available for purchase, but participants who raised $100 got one free. Junior fashion merchandising major Christianna Lodder, said she raised $2,000 individually. Lodder, who was also captain of the Alpha Phi team walking at the event, said she chose to get involved because she lost someone to suicide.

“This walk helps spread awareness of the issue,” she said. “A lot of people think of suicide as a personal issue, but it’s typically a mental disorder.”

The walk started at 4 p.m. but participants were asked to be there an hour early to sign in and socialize. After signing in, participants could chose to wear beaded necklaces available in eight different colors that represented different suicidal struggles. There was a mural for participants to write a message to loved ones on that was later hung up. Participants could also decorate a luminary bag that volunteers later lit and lined the ending point at Risman Plaza.

Chelsey Kolasa, an education graduate student, was working the registration table and handing out snacks and water. Kolasa said she walked last year and walked again this year because she personally struggled with suicide.

Stow residents Jane and George Rada came to Kent’s Out of Darkness walk this year for their daughter. They said they came last year too and enjoy it because it gets people talking about suicide.

“There’s too much of a stigma attached with suicide,” George Rada said. “The more you talk about it the more open it makes it.”

Teresa Rishel, associate professor of teaching, learning and curriculum studies, said she first brought the Out of the Darkness walk to Kent last year. She said EHHS was very supportive of sponsoring this event.

“Since we teach students about prevention and education of suicide and self-harming behaviors, we want them included in this,” Rishel said.

Students, professors, community residents and friends and families of all ages participated in the walk, she said.

“A lot of people show up to get support, because there aren’t too many places to get support,” Rishel said. “They know they can come here and feel part of a family.”

The walk started at Risman Plaza and participants had the choice of walking a three or five mile loop with a rest stop at the May 4 exhibit. Guides led the way with families, students, couples and dogs all following.

“When we bring it out in public and we have programs here at Kent State, those students who are struggling have a resource,” Rishel said. “That’s why we do it.”

There will be another Out of the Darkness walk on Akron’s campus Sunday, April 27.

Contact Julia Sprowls at [email protected].