Out of the Darkness Walk hopes to shine a light on mental health

Beads+of+different+colors+will+be+given+out+at+the+Out+of+the+Darkness+Walk+at+Nay+Aug+Park+this+Sunday.+Each+color+signifies+the+participant%27s+specific+connection+to+the+cause+of+suicide+prevention.

Photo credit/ Courtesy of the American Federation for Suicide Prevention website

Beads of different colors will be given out at the Out of the Darkness Walk at Nay Aug Park this Sunday. Each color signifies the participant’s specific connection to the cause of suicide prevention.

Elizabeth Deroba, Community Editor

Marywood will host an Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention tomorrow at Nay Aug Park.

Early Childhood and Elementary Education Major Bianca Gifford, the chair of the event, said the walk will begin at 10:00 a.m. at the Nay Aug Park Bandstand, across the street from the Everhart Museum, and will follow the paved pathway through the park.

“It’s a really nice walk,” said Gifford. “I’d probably say it’s a little less than a mile.”

Gifford said the route will be lined with motivational signs provided by the American Federation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) for the participants to read as they walk.

AFSP is also providing honor beads of different colors for the event. Each participant can choose the beads that best represent their connection to the cause of suicide prevention.

“That’s how we’ll remember the people who we’re walking for,” said Gifford.

There are nine different colors of beads available, and each has its own significance:
White: Loss of a child
Red: Loss of a spouse or partner
Gold: Loss of a parent
Orange: Loss of a sibling
Purple: Loss of a relative or friend
Silver: Loss of a first responder/military
Green: A personal struggle or attempt
Teal: Supporting someone who struggles or has attempted
Blue: Supporting suicide prevention

Gifford said the beads will be distributed during a short ceremony that will take place right before the start of the walk. The ceremony will last about 15 minutes and will feature speakers, including Gifford and representatives from AFSP.

As a result, Gifford is asking participants to arrive between 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. on Sunday so they can attend the ceremony before the start of the event. There will also be a basket raffle during the intervening hour featuring baskets donated from several local businesses.

Those who were unable to register for the event online will also be able to register in person for the event starting at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Registration is free, but everyone who raises over one hundred dollars will receive a free t-shirt that will be mailed out after the event. Gifford said all of the money raised by the event will go directly to AFSP.

For Gifford, the topic of suicide prevention is personal, having lost her father to suicide while in high school. She said she hopes the event will spread awareness of the topic.

“My dad was probably one of the happiest people I’ve ever met,” said Gifford, “We didn’t know, and so we all wish that we knew more, so I think that’s super important, is to check-in, see how everyone’s doing. I think that is the biggest takeaway from this event.”

Senior Early Childhood Education and Special Education Major Caitlin Reilly, who also helped organize the event, said that she hopes the event helps to further normalize discussions about mental health.

“We need to stop the stigma around it and kind of make it a conversation because we have conversations about physical health, and we have conversations about all these other things, but mental health is just as important as everything else,” said Reilly.

Reilly also said she hopes that the event helps people realize both the impact that they can have as a lifeline for someone and the number of people willing to support them if they need it.

“You support everybody that’s struggling, that has struggled, that will continue to struggle, but we’re all there together to walk together and know that you’re going to get through it,” said Reilly.

After the event is over, Gifford said that participants can continue to support the cause by attending other suicide prevention walks, posting on social media about ending the stigma, and donating directly to AFSP through their website.

Gifford also said she is looking for someone else to continue organizing the event at Marywood in the future because she will be graduating this year.

“I hope that I can get someone to carry this on throughout Marywood,” said Gifford. “That’s my goal. I will find someone.”

But for now, Reilly said she is looking forward to feeling the support of the community at the event.

“So many people struggle in silence, but to come together as one, as a community, and to see everybody that will support you no matter what you’re going through, or what you’re struggling with—just knowing that you’re not alone—I think that’s the biggest thing I want everybody to take away from our walk,” said Reilly.
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