Walk hosted to promote suicide prevention, awareness

Mississippi State University’s Psychology Graduate Student Association will host the suicide prevention walk called Out of the Darkness at 10 a.m. on April 1 in the Junction.

Since 2004 when the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention established the event, campuses across the U.S. have hosted Out of the Darkness Walks. 

Rachel Scott and Ashley Pate, graduate students majoring in psychology, both worked to bring the walk to MSU.

“We’re both graduate students through the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at State and have both been involved with the Out of the Darkness Walks at other institutions," Scott said. "We were really thinking about a way to really give back to MSU, and we decided that this would be a great way to start an important conversation in our community."

The walk serves two purposes.

“One piece is to start a conversation about suicide because one of the main tenets of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention is ‘seizing the awkward.’ A lot of people are unsure how to ask about suicide ideation or potential actions; they don’t know how to have these conversations to check in with the people around them," Scott said. "Part of it is to provide education on how we can check in, have these conversations and protect the people around us."

Pate said her research has shown the importance of having a conversation about suicide.

“Even just having someone ask somebody if they’re doing alright and checking in can have an incredibly meaningful impact on reducing the distress that these people are feeling,” Pate said.

The second goal of the walk acts as a fundraiser for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.

“Eighty percent of the money they raise goes towards advocacy work, outreach programs, support for individuals who have been impacted by suicide and meaningful research in this realm,” Scott said.

Additionally, Scott said half of all the money raised through this campus walk will stay in-state, meaning the impact of this walk will affect the community on a personal level.

Those interested in the walk can either register online to get extra time for fundraising and promoting the walk, or they can wait until the day of the walk and sign up at a booth on site.

“This walk will be a little more intimate," Scott said. "We’re just going to be doing laps around The Junction, with that being our central location. There will be music playing and tables with refreshments and suicide-prevention resources set up around the area."

Both Scott and Pate expressed their desire for the Out of the Darkness Walks to become an annual event and discussed how students can get involved with this walk and potential future walks.

“Students can help us on the front end and volunteer by reaching out to the psychology graduate student association, either through email or Cowbell Connect,” Pate said.

Michael Nadorff, the director of the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program and an associate professor of suicide research, spoke about how suicide affects those left behind.

“It leaves a hole," Nardoff said. "A lot of times people are left wanting a way to help, the way they wished they could’ve helped their loved ones. The walk acts as a way to give back and help the overall cause, even if it’s too late to help the individual."

Nadorff said people should get involved with the walk because of the communal familiarity with the issue.

“Either we know someone who’s died by suicide, or someone who’s attempted … And because of this stigma surrounding it, we don’t know who’s struggling until it’s too late,” Nardoff said. “Anything that helps to break that stigma and bring these conversations to light is invaluable.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or visit 988lifeline.org.

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