Out of the Darkness Walk
Published: Sunday, September 18, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
Did you attend the walk?
The air was crisp, the sky was grey, and the mood was somber.
Inspiring quotes from Peter Pan creator James Matthew Barrie and Chinese proverbs were scattered against the trees in the small field.
Families and friends all gathered on Saturday to honor their loved ones lost to suicide and to raise money to prevent it from happening to others. Though the situations that brought them there were different, the purpose they stood for held them together.
For the past five years the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has held the Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Delaware Park, just a subway ride and quick walk from South Campus. The AFSP is the leading non-profit organization dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education, and advocacy. Not only do they fund independent research, but they also hold events to give the loved ones of suicide victims the chance to honor the departed.
All of last week, the Student Wellness Team at UB was sponsoring Suicide Prevention Week. Out of the Darkness Walk was the final event, and through the UB Walkin' fundraiser the team raised the most money for the charity, well over their goal of $3,500.
By the time the walk started, the entire event surpassed $55,000.
Having such an event for the community helped bring a large group of people together to honor the deceased. The AFSP raises the awareness of one of the leading causes of death among U.S citizens, which is also one of the most preventable, by involving schools like UB and Buffalo State.
Lynda Battaglia, co-chair of the Out of the Darkness Walk in Buffalo for the past four years, believes that this fundraiser is an important way to raise awareness.
"Suicide is a national health problem," Battaglia said. "There is still so much stigma associated with suicide and mental illness. [It's important] to promote awareness of suicide and to help survivors. Let them know there is help out there; that they are not alone. That they don't have to go through it alone."
Since its first year, when just 200 people attended, the Out of the Darkness event has, "grown exponentially," as the area director for Western New York of AFSP, Eric Weaver said.
This year, the number has drastically increased now that over 1,000 people showed up this past Saturday to honor their loved ones and support Suicide Prevention. As the participants began their walk around Delaware Park's Ring Road, the clouds scattered, providing the supporters with sunlight and a warm breeze.
Before the walking began, Randy Haveson, whose life was seriously affected by suicide, took the stage to address the crowd. Haveson's speech was powerful and filled with emotion as he spoke of his own struggle with alcoholism and how he had to cope with his son's suicide.
"Life is short. Sometimes we kind of get so wound up in our little things in life, that we forget that we're not alone," Haveson said.
Being in college or just starting it affords new and exciting opportunities to students, but also comes with piles of homework and, at times, incredible amounts of stress. According to the AFSP, the biggest cause of suicide among college students is when they suffer from a mental illness, usually depression.
"Those of us left behind, it's our duty to let others know that there is a way, there is hope, there's help." Haveson said.
If ever a student needs help dealing with stress, handling a crisis or even coping with the transition to college, the UB Student Wellness Center offers free counseling services; individual, group, and couples therapy sessions. The Out of the Darkness Walk showed just how a community event can bring people together.