Walking ‘Out of the Darkness’

Families and friends gathered for awareness and in remembrance of loved ones for the Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk on Saturday, April 13. Photo by Emily Lambillotte..

Grant Engle

Teresa Rishel, associate professor in the College of Education, Health and Human Services, interacts with 20-year-old college students every day of the school year.

While this is common for nearly any professor, Rishel’s job serves as a constant reminder of possibly the most profound personal tragedy someone can face – her son’s suicide. He was a 20-year-old college student when he died.

Rishel organized Saturday’s Out of the Darkness walk through campus. Participants walked three miles in remembrance of lost friends and family, or to raise awareness of the public health issue.

Rishel’s son died nearly two decades ago, but she continues to honor his memory with her scholarly research and work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“This is my way to exorcise my pain,” Rishel said. “Today is my way of dealing with a personal tragedy in my professional life.”

Faculty and other volunteers signed up 129 participants for the walk. Several wore T-shirts in memory of their lost loved one or carried pictures with them along the way.

Lauren Brinkmann, freshman managerial marketing major, walked with friends from her high school. The group wore matching yellow shirts with the words “For Natalie” on the back.

Brinkmann lost her friend last year to suicide. She said the best way to handle the tragedy was to find someone to confide in. Also, she takes opportunities like the Out of the Darkness walk to raise awareness of teen and college-age suicide.

“We just don’t want anyone else to go through what we’ve been going through over the past year,” Brinkmann said.

While organizing a three-mile walk can be a tall order, Rishel said she was happy to put in the work to raise awareness for an issue that’s had a huge impact on her life. She also had help from volunteers – including her son – Scott Taylor.

Taylor was 15 years old when his brother took his own life. He said one of the most difficult aspects of the tragedy was that the subject of suicide was taboo.

“When I was young nobody wanted to talk about it,” Taylor said. “So, it was something I had to deal with on my own.”

Rishel and Taylor now work together to make sure people affected by suicide have somewhere to turn. Taylor said one of the goals of the walk was to create a network of people with similar experiences in Kent.

Before the participants started their three-mile trek to memorialize someone they lost, exorcise their pain or think about a problem that has affected millions of people, Rishel delivered a teary-eyed speech on why a community dialogue on suicide is so important.

Taylor said the grief he and his mother feels is still heavy today, but their cause is too important to ignore – for themselves and the young man they loved so dearly.

“If the tragedy that happened to our family can manifest itself into helping other people not suffer through a horrible loss – then it gives validity to my brother’s life,” Taylor said.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Resources are also available at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Contact Grant Engle at [email protected].