Out of the Darkness: Raising Awareness for Suicide Prevention

 
by Jessica Crisler
Staff Writer

On Nov. 6, several students and faculty from Agnes Scott participated in the 8th annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Piedmont Park. To date, the walk raised $92,688 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), which sponsors research and education programs aimed at the goal of suicide awareness and prevention.

Both H.E.R.O. and the I Am Woman theme house organized groups of students to participate in the walk.

“I myself have never done anything like [the Out of the Darkness Walk] before. I lost my dad to suicide when I was fifteen…I looked it up and read a little bit about the walk. I just wanted to get to know what was available here. I wanted to know more about what people are doing, and I was fascinated,” said Alex Holliday ’14, resident of the I Am Woman theme house.

The Out of the Darkness Community Walks take place all over the country, and their goal is not just to raise money but also to provide a support system for survivors.

The term survivor describes the family and friends of someone who completed suicide.

“[The walks are] a place where survivors meet other survivors,” said Holliday’14.

The Out of the Darkness Community Walks also provides an opportunity for survivors to share their stories with peers.

“It’s cool to be able to see someone stand up and share the feelings they’ve had…I think it’s important for college students because there is a really large percentage of college students who complete suicide. A big part of [prevention] is learning that it’s okay to talk about it,” said Holliday’14.

Because suicide awareness and prevention have been largely avoided as comfortable topics in the past, many people still do not realize how much of an issue suicide and mental illness are.

“A lot of people don’t really pay that much attention to [suicide]. [I think we need to] make people aware of the facts. Reading the facts did a lot for me and puts it into perspective for a lot of people,” said Anjane Williams ’14, resident of the I Am Woman theme house.

The students who participated in the Out of the Darkness Community Walk here in Atlanta largely agree that the best way to address suicide awareness and prevention is to get people comfortable talking about it and work to make people more aware of the facts.

“[Suicide is] a major issue, and if we’re not going to directly talk about it, then nobody is going to know, ” said Ebony Black ’14, resident of the I Am Woman theme house.

Here at The College, the Wellness Center and H.E.R.O. are working together to educate students about suicide prevention and to make students more comfortable addressing suicide as an issue.

The Wellness Center and H.E.R.O. have created a two-pronged approach to raising awareness and facilitating prevention on campus. QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) trains anyone on campus on how to notice and address signs of distress. Students who complete QPR training learn about people and places of reference when dealing with thoughts of suicide. The other approach, ISP (Interactive Screening Program), targets students anonymously through email questionnaires about stress levels.

“People don’t talk about [suicide]. I think that’s the problem; it’s been taboo to talk about it for a long time… I believe that the more we talk about it the more we can help people,” said Dr. Beth Krakow, staff psychologist and outreach coordinator.

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