ACU students will walk the Lunsford to bring awareness for suicide prevention and mental illness on April 7.
Registration for the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk begins at 10 a.m. by the pond outside the Hunter Welcome Center, although walkers can also sign up ahead of time through a link on the group’s Facebook page, ACU Campus Walk AFSP. The walk begins at 11 a.m.
Before the walk, Kalie Dame, sophomore animal science major from Olney, and her mother will share their stories and experience with suicide. Participants will then walk the Lunsford trail. After the walk, there will be a remembrance ceremony for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. They will be serving a free lunch, and people are welcome to bring their dogs to walk with them.
“The Out of the Darkness Campus Walk is a walk that brings awareness of suicide prevention; it brings awareness of mental illnesses to the public,” Dame said. “One in every three college age students from 18-25 have a mental illness, and a lot of college students aren’t open with their mental illness, so that’s what we’re striving to kind of get out in the open.”
Before and after the walk, they will sell t-shirts, stickers, and a variety of other items with prices ranging from $0.50 to $30. All the proceeds will go towards the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Dame said they raised about $6000 last year.
“It’s basically just a time for people to get together to remember their loved ones if they lost anyone to suicide,” Dame said. “We also do a little thing for anyone who’s struggling at the time, if they’re struggling with suicidal thoughts or just a mental illness in general.”
This is the third year the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk takes place on ACU’s campus, coordinated by Dame with help from ACU’s counseling center. Dame said almost 300 people showed up last year.
“A lot of the time you hear ‘suicide,’ and it’s just a very hush-hush situation,” Dame said. “Like people don’t really want to say the word ‘suicide,’ it’s kind of like ‘oh no!’ So it tells people that it’s OK to talk about it openly. It helps people not to be scared if they do have that problem. If they are having suicidal thoughts, if they’re having struggles with their mental illness, they can reach out, and it’s OK.”
Jon Hayden, junior digital entertainment technology major from Dallas, said the number of participants in the walk increased dramitcally last year. He said he was really excited to see how many people care about this and are willing to give up a morning to walk for the cause.
“It lets me know that there’s more people out there who either suffer with this or know people who suffer with this,” Hayden said. “It makes me feel like I’m not alone out there, because I’ve also suffered . . . so it’s really great to see people standing up, sharing their voices that ‘yes, I’ve suffered through this too, and I’m able to walk for other people as well.’ ”