The Colleges’ first ever “Out of Darkness Walk” will be held on Sunday, May 4. The walk is intended to raise awareness about mental health and suicide, provide information about campus and community resources, increase ally visibility on campus, and reduce the stigma around seeking help. The Health Promotions Club has paired with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to organize the walk, which will take place on the Quad from 2-4 p.m.
Cecilia Carsky-Bush ’16 was instrumental in bringing the Out of Darkness Walk to campus. Carsky-Bush has been a passionate advocate for the AFSP since the passing of her brother. “I began my relationship with AFSP after my brother, Alex, took his own life in 2009,” she says. “He was 19, a first year in college. I was 14 and did not know what to make of suicide, nonetheless how it would change my life.”
In the United States, a person dies by suicide every 13.7 minutes, claiming more than 38,000 lives each year. It is the second leading cause of death among college students, and the leading cause of suicide among this population is untreated depression.
“The HWS health promotions club is my outlet into the campus community and has guided my thoughts tremendously about what I will do for mental health advocacy and suicide prevention and awareness for the rest of my life,” she explains. “If you had asked me after my brother died, what I would be doing to honor him, I never would’ve guessed that I would be standing up for suicide prevention, those impacted by mental illness and telling my story as much as possible. I cannot wait for this walk as I believe it will really help the club gain some momentum in one of our main goals.”
This past March, Carsky-Bush was awarded a grant through the Centennial Center for Leadership to attend a conference in Los Angeles to help university professionals in supporting and assisting their students with mental illnesses. Carsky-Bush remarked that the conference was invaluable to her advocacy.
“Since Alex passed, I seek to encourage others to help reduce the stigma that is associated with mental illness and suicide. I was scared to say that word for some time, until I realized that stigma was the thing holding my tongue back,” she says. “Now, I am an advocate, an ally, and the effected. As a college student, I do not want students to fear or neglect seeking help.”
Although the Out of Darkness Walk is free, Carsky-Bush and the Health Promotions Club encourage those in attendance to donate to the AFSP.
The Health Promotions Club thanks donors for this Sunday’s event, including Mark’s Pizzeria, Wegmans, Yoway Frozen Yogurt, Opus, and Red Jacket Orchards. There will be free food, raffles, T-shirts, and live music.