Article by Hannah Vandergrift
Photo Courtesy of Out of the Darkness
On Oct. 8, Roanoke College hosted an Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Awareness. It was a rainy Saturday morning, but that did not stop a fairly large crowd of people from participating in the community walk. It also helped that the event was held on the indoor track in the new Cregger Center.
A number of speakers spoke before the walk began, the first being a representative from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Ryan Newcomb. Newcomb explained that these walks were meant to help decrease some of the stigma around mental illness.
“We have to work on bringing mental health out of the darkness,” He said. “We wouldn’t tell someone in the middle of a heart attack to start eating healthy or exercise. We’re going to treat the brain as just as important as any body part.”
According to the AFSP, up to forty-three thousand people are lost to suicide each year. That is equivalent to someone committing suicide every forty seconds. So far, the Out of Darkness Walks have encouraged a quarter of a million people to walk across the country for suicide awareness.
Colleen Quigley, a staff counselor at Roanoke College who spoke at the event, in reference to the fact that everyone was there to walk in the morning.
“I don’t know about you but I’m not a fan of exercising, especially in the morning,” said Quigley “However, we are all one body. We are all connected. If something happens to one of us, it happens to all of us, and that’s why we come here; to exercise our hearts.”
After the speeches, the walk began with a blessing by RC Chaplain, Rev. Chris Bowen. His daughter participated in releasing three white doves into the sky in honor of those lost. Since there was a chance of rain, most people walked on the indoor track in Cregger, but a few chose to walk the first mile outside along Salem streets.
Individuals from local organizations such as the Blue Ridge Behavioral Center also participated by having booths set up and offered pamphlets and info on their organizations. Brian Chisom of the Dean of Students Office spoke as well. He encouraged students to talk to campus counselors, or to call 911 or campus security if they suspect a friend or fellow student to be in danger of committing suicide.