OSU annual Out of the Darkness walk will support veterans

Event to feature Push-up Challenge that will honor those lost to suicide

The+flyer+for+the+Out+of+Dark+walk+can+be+seen+educating+the+OSU+community+about+the+walk+in+the+Student+Experience+Center.+The+event+will+feature+a+22+push-up+challenge+to+honor+veterans%2C+guest+speakers%2C+and+an+honor+bead+ceremony.+

Solomon Myers, Photographer

The flyer for the Out of Dark walk can be seen educating the OSU community about the walk in the Student Experience Center. The event will feature a 22 push-up challenge to honor veterans, guest speakers, and an honor bead ceremony.

Katterlea MacGregor, News Contributor

Content warning – story contains mention of depression and suicide. 

Oregon State University’s annual Out of the Darkness walk event, which focuses on removing the stigma around suicide and mental health, will emphasize veterans in the community this year.

The Out of the Darkness event, which is free to participate in and will take place on April 9, is being hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Counseling and Psychological Services and OSU, to bolster community healing and fundraising. The opening ceremony will start at 11 a.m. in the Student Experience Center Plaza.

“Suicide is a topic shrouded in shame and stigma,” said Tessie Webster-Henry, the mental health promotion and suicide prevention coordinator for CAPS. “Most people want to talk about it. It’s a very hard topic. But when we take it out of the darkness and shine some light on it, then people can start getting support.” 

According to the AFSP, 45,979 Americans died by suicide in 2020. Nearly 1,100 college students die by suicide every year. It is also the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34.

While the Out of the Darkness event is intended to bring light to all encounters with suicide, there will be an emphasis on veterans within the OSU community. Every day, 22 veterans die by suicide.

“We have a little event [called the 22 Push-up Challenge, which] we do every year in the military,” said Ray Sullivan, a director of ceremony for the walk and the student veteran coordinator for Associated Stuents of OSU. “So, we’re going to bring that here… This is something that is very near and dear to our hearts across the United States.”

The 22 Push-up Challenge features military personnel completing 22 push-ups to reflect and honor those lost to suicide. The OSU Color Guard, uniform displays and guest speakers will be included in the event to further represent the veteran community.

“It takes so little to give a group, no matter who they are—veterans, LGBT, DACA students—anyone who struggles with something, people need help no matter who they are,” Sullivan said. “It’s not exclusive to one part of the world.”

The veterans theme falls near and dear to the organizers’ personal lives this year. Lucianne Ryan, an OSU alumni and representative of AFSP, recently lost her uncle, a veteran, to suicide.

“It’s tough to talk about, but I feel like we need to, especially with veterans,” Ryan said. “He didn’t have a community where he felt like he could have talked about his feelings with. If he had, if most veterans did, I feel like—it sounds so stupid—they wouldn’t feel so alone, they’d feel supported.” 

Ryan said she’s also a survivor herself. Ryan had to drop out of school during that period of her life. Upon rejoining the OSU community, Ryan stumbled upon her first AFSP Out of the Darkness walk.

“I found this community of people my age who were passionate about the same things I was passionate about, who really cared about mental health and about people,” Ryan said. “I felt like I had lived in a world where people didn’t care about that stuff.”

The fundraising goal for this event is $10,000.

“Half of the money that we raise goes to the National Foundation for Suicide Research,” Webster-Henry said. “Half the money comes to our local community for local suicide prevention.”

By meeting the $10,000 fundraising goal, CAPS will be able to fund internal programs such as the Interactive Screening Program without using the CAPS budget. 

Upon arrival at the event, participants will receive beaded necklaces in an assortment of colors, each with their own meaning. For instance, silver represents the loss of a military personnel or first responder.

After a resource fair and the opening ceremony, the honor bead ceremony will take place. During this time, participants are prompted to raise up their beads as each color is called and accompanied by a moment of silence. People can identify others who’ve had similar struggles by the color of their beads.

“Green is the color of a personal struggle, seeing almost everyone hold up the color green, there was really something about it,” said Karree Lee, the co-chair of the committee. “You really weren’t alone.”

During the walk, participants may also place painted rocks around campus and Corvallis, Ore. The rocks are meant to be found at a later time and evoke positive emotion for whoever finds them. Some rocks have been hand painted prior to the event, but there will be an opportunity for participants to paint their own rocks during the event as well. 

“I just want people to know… One decision, one person, is not insignificant,” Ryan said. “It really can make a huge difference.”