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Take pride in the success of UMass walk for suicide prevention

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

(Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Having attended the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Out of the Darkness” campus walk at the University of Massachusetts, I can say with 100 percent confidence that it was a huge success. At the end of the online registration period, 249 participants had registered to attend and many more showed up at the walk.

The final count shows that over $10,300 was raised for the AFSP. The event shows that the UMass community has a commitment to mental health as a cause to be promoted and to each other because so many people that attended were supporting friends.

Early in the morning March 29, people gathered at the track and talked with each other about why they were there. The AFSP has color-coded beads they give to those in attendance so that others can identify why somebody is supporting the cause. Purple beads signify the loss of a friend or relative, green beads show that the individual has personally struggled with depression and blue beads show a support for the cause. It was refreshing to see that many people were wearing blue beads, meaning that they supported the AFSP, but had not lost anyone to suicide.

At 10 a.m., several speakers stepped up to the podium and gave compelling speeches as to why they chose to support the AFSP. Many people had lost a friend or had struggled with depression and saw the AFSP as a tool to help them with their struggle. It was great to see the individuals speaking confidently about a cause that they support so strongly. The speeches were a great way to kick off the event because they highlighted the common cause that everybody had gathered to support.

After the speeches, the entire crowd started the walk while being cheered on by some of the UMass cheerleaders. A highlight of the walk was seeing several RSOs — Active Minds, National Residence Hall Honorary and UMass cheerleading — support a member of their club and bring out the whole team.

The route was a loop around the entire campus. The team that led the walk was the top fundraiser, Active Minds. They held a large banner that had the AFSP Campus Walk logo on it. The entire crowd got friendly beeps from several cars, which was nice because it showed the support of complete strangers who saw a crowd of people supporting a cause and gave recognition to that cause. The walk ended back at the track where a graduate student gave a small talk on Internet bullying and how it can be prevented.

The amount of money and awareness raised exceeded my expectations. I would like to thank everybody who orchestrated the event with special thanks to Gregory Barysky, who made the event possible. The campus community should take pride in the open show of support and awareness for suicide prevention. It’s another important step to reduce the stigma of mental illness.

Nicholas Trieber is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at ntreiber@umass.edu.[liveblog]

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