RIO GRANDE — The University of Rio Grande will host its’ second annual Out of the Darkness Campus Walk on Saturday April 14. Teams are already forming and have begun fundraising to help raise awareness about the issue of suicide.
“Our tiny community is no stranger to the pain. Since beginning to advocate for heightened awareness in Gallia County, I have been approached by many families who have been impacted by the heartache and devastation as a result of loved ones who died by suicide,” said Kelly Bonice, director of Accessibility and Mental Health Services and Survivor Advocate.
The walk consists of teams that raise awareness of the walk and its main subject. The fundraising aspect is there to help fund research for suicide prevention, advocacy for public education and policy regarding suicide, and support survivors of suicide loss. This year they have set the goal of $5,000 to raise, same as last year’s goal which they exceeded with over 100 walkers.
Suicide has become an issue in the area, causing more groups to take action to promote awareness and respond to the matter.
“July 11, 2017: a day that changed our lives forever. The day that my nephew, Anthony, made the decision to take his life. Before that day, I was not aware of how many people in our community have been impacted by suicide,” said Abby Whitt, a participant in the walk. “We know the pain of losing someone to suicide, we’re hoping by participating we can help save another family from experiencing the same pain.”
According to Bonice, the purpose of the walk is to engage individuals in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s programs and raise funds for suicide prevention and programs.
“We walk to raise awareness, and we walk to spread the message of hope. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-24. We hope that by walking we save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide,” said Bonice. “For the survivors, I am thankful. For the ones struggling, I support you. For those who aren’t with us, I honor you. More than anything, I want peace for those struggling. I want a world that is safe for survivors, and I will never stop fighting for this cause.”
Registration for the event is free, although there is incentive for teams to raise funds. Registration can be done online at afsp.org/Rio.
“We need to end the stigma that surrounds talking about mental health and suicide. Our youth and young adults need to know that suicide is not the only option. They need to know that it’s okay to ask for help, that it doesn’t make them look weak,” said Whitt.
Whitt is a part of team Chief, the nickname of her nephew Anthony.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108.