Hiram College students, alumni, faculty and Hiram villagers joined the fight to battle mental illness in the second annual Out of the Darkness Campus Walk.
The walk, in conjunction with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, was supported by 126 registered walkers and 60 volunteers, including members of the Hiram College football team. The event, which was organized by Cara Constance, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, and students Kailey Cooper ’15, of Rootstown, Ohio, and Lauren Peacock ’17, of Hudson, Ohio, raised nearly $4,000.
The morning began with a pancake breakfast in Dix Dining Hall and the opportunity to participate in one of the many interactive booths, run by several Hiram College clubs, including the Hiram Student Nurse Association (HSNA), Active Minds, and the Health Professions Affinity Community (HPAC). They offered resources for those suffering from mental illness, such as suicide hotline numbers, counseling opportunities and activities to deal with stress relief.
Several speakers gave opening remarks about the campus walk and the fight for suicide prevention to kick off the event at 10 a.m. Andrea Warner, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing, spoke of her work in psychiatry and her work to end the stigma against those who have suffered from the suicide of a loved one.
“Throughout my journey of working with lots of people with various illnesses, I’ve found that acceptance and understanding is probably the number one thing that we can do, and thats something that each and every one of us can do,” Dr. Warner said. “You don’t have to have a degree; you don’t have to have special training … Each and every one of you has taken the first step in advocacy just by being here.”
She also urged the walkers to challenge the negative media portrayals of those who suffer from mental illnesses.
“We, as individuals, need to work to lessen this stigma against people, for reasons that they shouldn’t be stigmatized,” she added.
Other speakers included Kevin Feisthamel, Ph.D., director of counseling, health and disability services, who spoke about the Hiram College chapter of the national organization Active Minds, and state Rep. Marlene Anielski of Walton Hills, who gave a speech to conclude the walk.
After her talk, Dr. Warner invited walkers to step up to the microphone and pay tribute to those whom they were walking for. Students, friends of students, faculty and Hiram villagers told stories about friends, family member and classmates who lost a battle with mental illness before embarking on the three-mile walk.