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On April 21, 2016, Gallaudet and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) will host University’s second annual Out of the Darkness Campus Walk.
The event is sponsored by Gallaudet’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and aims to involve students in the effort to prevent suicide. In addition to spreading mental health awareness, this walk will raise funds for AFSP which it will use to invest in research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss.
Ruth Schilling, G-’87, a mental health counselor with CAPS, is coordinating the event with the support of many Gallaudet departments. She promotes the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk as a way to shine a light on this important topic.
“People need to know that there is hope and help available,” Schilling said. “I want Gallaudet to walk toward the light, out of the darkness, to a hopeful tomorrow.”
Though everyone is encouraged to register online prior to the event, participants may also register on site. Registration starts at 11:30 a.m. in the Gallaudet Field House and this is followed by an opening ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Presenters Edna Johnston, Emily Shaw, Jonathon Poole, Alisha Bronk, Lindsey Corthell, and Kaylee Bodtke-Stout will share their personal experiences with suicide, and the ceremony will feature a musical performance by Ashley Snodgrass and Rebecca Piliavento.
The walk takes place from 1:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. as participants make four laps around Lincoln Circle.
Walkers are invited to collect donations from friends, family members, and sponsors and all of these funds go directly to AFSP. Last year, the Gallaudet community raised more than $24,000 for the foundation which was the fourth highest total among campuses in the nation. These contributions have benefited Gallaudet as AFSP has collaborated with the University to set up an online screening program for students and ensured that all of its resources are captioned. The organization is also planning to highlight a deaf family in an educational film about suicide loss.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students and every year more than 38,000 Americans take their own lives. AFSP aims to reduce the annual suicide rate 20% by 2025 and Out of the Darkness Walks play a large part in accomplishing this goal.
“I believe that if we educate people about mental illness, provide them with prevention strategies, and encourage people to talk and listen to each other, then we can reduce the suicide rate,” Schilling said. “We are all in this together, each life matters, and everyone can be a lifesaver.”
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