The Hiram community will take a stand for suicide prevention through an Out of the Darkness Campus Walk on March 21, 2015. This event, organized by Hiram College students and faculty, begins with registration at the Kennedy Center at 9 a.m., followed by a two-hour walk at 10 a.m.
“One of the goals for this event is the key phrase ‘suicide prevention,’” said Cara Constance, Ph.D., associate professor of biology and faculty organizer. “The idea is not to memorialize, so much as to work hard to remove the stigma for mental illness so people are more likely to seek treatment and feel supported and acknowledged that they may suffer from mental illness. Through developing a supportive community here, we are working toward the prevention of suicide.”
This is Hiram’s second year holding an Out of the Darkness Walk. In its inaugural year, the event raised more than $6,000, was supported by 100 walkers, 30 volunteers, and featured State Rep. Marlene Anielski (R-Walton Hills) giving a speech to conclude the walk. New this year, a pancake breakfast benefit will take place before and during registration, from 8-9:30 a.m. Tickets are $5 (students) and $8 (community members) in advance, or $7 (students) and $10 (community members) at the door.
During registration, interactive tables will be set up to educate participants about mental illness and provide resources for those struggling. Several clubs on campus are volunteering for this event, including Medicus, Active Minds, Hiram Student Nurse Association (HSNA), Presence and Respect for Youth Sexual Minorities (PRYSM), Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC) and the football team.
Some of main organizers for this event have a personal connection to the cause, including Dr. Constance.
“I have depression,” she said. “I announce that to my classes because I feel that it’s important for people to have a role model – someone who’s not afraid to say, ‘I am depressed and I am treated for depression, and right now I’m very healthy and very happy.’”
Dr. Constance’s open acceptance of her mental illness prompted biology major Kailey Cooper ’15, of Rootstown, Ohio, to approach her about bringing an Out of the Darkness Walk to Hiram. Cooper became involved with the walks at Kent State University after losing her stepfather to suicide.
“I wanted to bring this walk to Hiram because I thought it was such a great experience for us to talk to people who had similar experiences,” said Cooper.
“A lot of times, if you’re struggling, you need someone next to you who’s been through that place and understands what you’re going through,” added sociology major Lauren Peacock ’17. As a senior in high school, Peacock, of Hudson, Ohio, led her own walk for Bring Change 2 Mind, a similar organization. She also hopes to end the discrimination that is projected onto people with mental illnesses.
“We want to raise funds for this cause, but more importantly, raise awareness,” said Dr. Constance. “There’s no cost to register for this walk. Someone could go online and put their name down, and that, to me, shows that they recognize and support this, even if they don’t come on walk day. You can register to be a ‘virtual walker.’”
Participants can register online. The money raised at the walk will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.