Photo by Priya Patel.
UMBC’s University Health Services partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to host Out of the Darkness, a campus walk intended to raise awareness for suicide prevention. Several student organizations and over 150 students participated in the event. Volunteers handed out materials that listed resources for students who are struggling with mental health issues, painted rocks with positive statements on them and distributed color-coded bead necklaces used as a display of solidarity.
According to the AFSP, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with over 44,000 Americans completing suicides each year. For every completed suicide, there are 25 attempts. Additionally, the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment has found that nearly 30 percent of college students are dealing with depression, which often precedes suicidal ideation and attempts.
College life can include many potential stressors, such as large workloads, relationship issues, juggling school with jobs and family, being away from home or financial difficulties. Furthermore, suicides often go underreported due to the social stigma surrounding it. Individuals who are struggling often feel isolated.
Resources for mental health have also become more commonplace. Most colleges, including UMBC, offer low-to-no-cost mental health services. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is one of the most well-known organizations to specifically deal with mental health issues, and many others exist as well. With the benefits of modern communication, finding a supportive voice is far easier than before.
Organizations like ASFP help to provide resources for people dealing with suicidal ideation or thoughts as well as provide resources for those who want to assist their loved ones. Several national hotlines exist, with many of them having text options for those with phone anxiety. There are even hotlines for specific demographics such as the Trans Lifeline for the transgender community.
While suicide is a difficult and somber topic, the overall atmosphere of the walk and of the people participating in it was hopeful and optimistic. In fact, support for the walk and the cause surrounding it has been stronger than ever. Assistant director for health promotion Samantha Smith said, “What was unique to this year’s walk was that, this year, we had lots of student organizations on campus who are committed to wellness come out and support students … raising awareness all throughout the academic year, especially in the month of April.”
This year’s event, according to Smith, was a tremendous success. She said, “This year we tripled the number of registrants for the walk.” The funds raised go back to the AFSP, who help provide resources such as screening programs, education programs, materials and connections regarding the issue of suicide.
Fortunately, other students are offering support for their peers. Hulon Morgan, a psychology senior and volunteer for the event said, “No one deserves to feel alone to the point where they see no way out of their situation. If I can provide any sort of light or hope for anyone, I’m gonna do it.”