Campus walk shines a light on suicide awareness
The second leading cause of death among college students is suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. One person dies by suicide every three hours in the state of Florida, and according to Emory University, more than 1,000 people die by suicide on college campuses every year.
FGCU wants to reduce that statistic. Counseling and Psychological Services will host its second annual Out of the Darkness Walk from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 20.
“It’s time to make changes to these statistics,” said Julie Rego, a licensed mental health counselor with a doctorate in counselor education and supervision, and the suicide prevention coordinator at CAPS. “That’s why we’re walking: to raise awareness and prevent suicide.”
Donations are not required for people to walk in the event; however, as of March 15, the event has already raised $7,583, and more than 100 people have registered to attend.
Rego expects to see CAPS reach its goal of $8,000 because last year many people registered and donated at the event itself instead of online. Last year, the event raised more than $5,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The event has many sponsors, including Gulfcoast Mental Health Counselors Association, Sovereign Health, MS Gal, Monarch Wellness and the Outpour Church International. Coca-Cola and Rita’s Italian Ice are also sponsoring the event and will provide food and beverages.
Once people register at the race, they will be able to put a colored thumbprint on a tree painted by local artist Lisa Reis. Each thumbprint and color will represent a different group. For example, purple represents a friend who died by suicide. Walkers will also have the opportunity to pick up colored honor beads to wear as they walk and wear a sign with the name of the person they are walking for.
Once the walk begins, at 6 p.m., CAPS staff member Jen Herrera will sing the National Anthem, and FGCU alumna Darlene Victoria Rose Riveron will sing a few songs at the Veterans Pavilion. Then, participants will walk around the buildings on campus.
Students involved in the Peers Care program will hold empowerment posters during the walk, and participants will be able to write their own messages of empowerment on white boards to be displayed on campus.
Rego said she hopes the event spreads suicide awareness, helps erase the stigma surrounding suicide and its causes and encourages people with mental illness to seek treatment.
“Suicide takes life without regard to age, income, social standing, race or gender,” Rego said.
People who wish to be involved with the walk but cannot attend can volunteer to be a “virtual walker.”
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Students who want to make an appointment with CAPS can call at 239-590-7950 but should call 911 if they are in immediate danger.