Out of the Darkness, an organization at Valdosta State University which brings awareness to suicide and its prevention, will be hosting their third annual 5k walk to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Participants will walk or run VSU’s fitness trail, which begins and ends at the front lawn of the campus. Out of the Darkness is part of the student branch of the Georgia Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention which focuses on eliminating the loss of life from suicide in Georgia. Out of the Darkness Campus Walks are the AFSP’s signature student fundraising events, designed to engage youth and young adult in the fight to prevent suicide.
Lauren Corley, Out of the Darkness Public Relations Representative and Secretary, said that not only does the organization participate in the walk itself, but mental health events. “Along with the Out of the Darkness walk, we participate in mental health awareness events across campus, such as mental health panels,” said Corley.
Participants are given beads while at the 5k to represent why they are involved in Out of the Darkness. White beads represent the loss of a child, red beads represent the loss of a spouse or partner, gold represent the loss of a parent, orange beads represent the loss of a sibling, purple represents the loss of a relative or friend, silver represents the loss of a first responder or military, green represents someone’s personal struggle, blue represents the support of the cause, and teal represents the friends and family of someone who struggles.
Tiffanie Sherlock, Out of the Darkness President, believes the walk has opened up the door to talk about mental health. “This walk has opened the door to talk about mental health and suicide among college students. One of the main reasons we brought this to our campus was to start talking about it and to open the door,” said Sherlock. “This is a heavy topic to openly talk about due to severity of the subject.” Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Out of the Darkness at Valdosta State University has a goal to raise $5,000 at this year’s walk. In previous years, the walk has raised around the $2,000 goal benchmark, according to Sherlock. “Our first walk, we raised $2,000 with about twenty participants. Last year’s walk, we raised $1,627.30 with 92 participants,” said Sherlock. “We had more students, faculty and staff participate than the year before. That was the purpose of the event. I want this walk to show how to connect the community both on campus and the Valdosta area with the resources that are available to them.”
Out of the Darkness Vice President Becky Shook thinks it is important for people to talk about suicide. “Most people don’t want to talk about suicide. Most people don’t want to talk about suicidal thought or anything that could lead to suicide. But it needs to be talked about,” said Shook. “It needs to be brought up for the kids, teenagers, and adults who don’t feel comfortable discussing it—for the people that don’t know what is out there to help them. Everyone can work together, take action, and raise awareness to prevent suicide.” Every year suicides claims more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined, and yet suicide prevention does not get the same kind of funding given to other leading causes of death. Raising money for awareness can make a difference and change the conversation.
The walk will take place on March 29, 2019 starting at VSU’s front lawn. Registration will open up at 6:30 and the opening ceremony will begin at 7pm.
Tiffanie Sherlock advises anyone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts to seek the services located right in the Valdosta and Lowndes County area. “If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts, we have many resources in the Valdosta/ Lowndes County Area that you can either call or walk in. Please call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1 (800) 715-4225 if you want to speak to a therapist over the phone or have one come to your home specifically,” said Sherlock. “There are also the Legacy Outpatient and Crisis Center and Greenleaf Outpatient and Hospital that are open 24 hours to walk-ins here in Valdosta. You can also go to South Georgia Medical Center Emergency Room or call 911.”
The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24 hours. You are not alone.
To learn more about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and ways you can volunteer or support their efforts, go to their website.