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Out of the darkness and into the light: Western hosts second annual Out of Darkness walk

WAG hosts second annual Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention

Sage Kiernan-Sherrow |  News Editor

Disclaimer: This article discusses the topic of suicide. For those who are sensitive to this topic, please refrain from reading and instead peruse other articles.

 

Last year, Nicholas Ertsgaard, a member of the newly-established Wellness Advocacy Group at Western, proposed that Western participate in the annual Out of Darkness Walk, an event based around suicide prevention. Now, one year later on May 14, Western opted to participate in this event again, largely organized by WAG members Tim Glascock, Shaylie Pickerell and Lea Sheldone — except this time, the event was held virtually because of COVID-19, a pandemic that is undoubtedly affecting mental health worldwide. 

In fact, according to NPR, “The U.N. found that even before the emergence of the virus, depression affected some 264 million people worldwide, and suicide was the second leading cause of death in people aged 15-29. The numbers were especially stark in regions beset by violence, poverty and other conditions akin to — and likely exacerbated by — those created by the coronavirus.” The topic of mental health during times of crisis was addressed during the Out of Darkness Walk, as well as many other aspects of wellness. 

The Out of Darkness walks were developed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention  whose goal is to “reduce the annual suicide rate 20% by 2025,” according to their website. The event’s name is a double entendre — coming “out of darkness” refers to both mental wellbeing as well as destroying the stigma, or the darkness, surrounding discussions about mental health. Western’s 2020 virtual Out of Darkness walk was organized as a presentation, with live interaction from participants via a chat room. 

The first third of the presentation included various resources both local and national for those struggling with their mental health. Western’s Acapella group, The West of Us, then performed a rendition of the song “You’ll be Okay” by A Great Big World followed by a quick introduction from Ryan Price, the Area Director of AFSP, and testimonies from other Western students and community members. 

Ryan Price encouraged social engagement in discussions about mental health and sharing resources with those who may be struggling. He reminded the attendees that “suicide is preventable” and that checking in with community members is vital. Towards the end of the presentation, he also challenged participants to do something intentional to take care of their own mental health or to promote it in general. 

Tim Glascock said, “for many, the Out of Darkness walk is a journey of remembrance a time to acknowledge the ways in which suicide and depression have affected our lives and our loved ones.” He introduced the final segment, in which individuals were asked to type the color of the beads that are representative to their individual journey with suicide. Typically, individuals would raise their beads as a sign of solidarity, but as this was a virtual event, that solidarity was communicated via the chat. For a description of each color’s meaning, please refer to the graphic provided by WAG.

Additionally, a full recording of the event can be found if on Crowdcast; students interested in viewing it should reach out to a WAG member for access. The event is complete with both subtitles and interpreters. 

 

Contact the author at howlnews@wou.edu