Suicide prevention walk to be first of its kind for Oregon universities

Jaycee Kalama, News Reporter

Oregon State University is hosting Oregon’s first university campus walk in honor of suicide prevention and mental illness awareness on April 27 at the Student Experience Center Plaza. 

The OSU Out of the Darkness Campus Walk will feature a resource fair, speakers, honor bead ceremony and campus walk. In collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this event was organized not only to create awareness, but to reduce the stigma associated with mental health and suicide. 

“Students who attend will have the chance to see that nobody is alone in their journey and it’s a great way to bring together the OSU community with the larger Corvallis population,” said Josey Koehn, the ASOSU Coordinator for Wellness Affairs. 

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Koehn has served on the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk committee since fall term of 2017 when the idea began. ASOSU is hoping to support this event as much as possible through having their own team, gathering donations, volunteering and spreading the word, according to Koehn. 

“The process was exciting because it really showed how much support there is for initiatives like this all across campus,” Koehn said. “Students, staff and faculty members all came together to put in hours of work towards the event.”

The OSU Campus Walk also encourages help seeking and provides support for people who have lost loved ones to suicide or who struggle with thoughts of suicide, have attempted suicide or who support people with these struggles. 

“Mental health is a difficult topic to discuss. The campus walk aims to break down the stigma around the topic of suicide and create a safe environment for all to join hands in hope. The walk is designed for anyone and everyone, affected or unaffected by suicide,” said Lucianne Ryan, vice president of the club Psyched Out! and volunteer coordinator for the campus walk.

According to Tess Webster-Henry, committee chair of the campus walk and mental health promotion coordinator for Counseling and Psychological Services, the walk provides a platform for hope and healing. 

“It shows that there are a lot of people in our community that care, have experienced similar issues and want to help,” Webster-Henry said via email. “The event helps to build a sense of community so that folks do not feel alone in their struggles.”

There are a lot of different ways to get involved with the Out of the Darkness campus walk. This event, being available to all community members, offers volunteer opportunities and gives individuals a chance to register for the walk and raise some money for suicide prevention on a national and local level. Those who are interested can also register as a team or simply donate to the walk in general or for a specific team.

“Invite your friends to join you, tell others about the event: opt in on Facebook and share it with your friends, post on your social media about the event,” Webster-Henry said via email. 

Online registration for the event closes at noon, the Friday before the walk. However, anyone who would like to participate can register in person at the walk from the time check-in begins until the walk starts. Walk donations are accepted until June 30.

The event will start at 10 a.m. with check in and in-person registration, as well as a resource fair with therapy dogs and a variety of on and off campus resources. The opening ceremony will kick off the event at 11 a.m. This portion of the event will highlight student and alumni speakers, who will be sharing their stories of struggle, resilience and hope. 

“Look forward to an opportunity to engage in open and honest conversation about mental health, suicide awareness and suicide prevention,” Ryan said. 

Then there will be a bead ceremony following the public speakers. Each participant will select and wear the bead colors that correspond to their experiences, bead colors and their meanings can be found on the registration page. During the ceremony, each color is introduced with a brief explanation, this is when those wearing a specific bead color will hold the beads up. After the opening ceremony, the walk will begin, beginning and ending at the SEC plaza. Upon return, the event concludes. 

“Suicide touches so many people, I think it’s really important to talk about it and to spread hope and a culture of caring for each other here at OSU,” Koehn said.