UMass to hold suicide awareness walk

By Rachel Ravelli

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(James Coller/Flickr)

(James Coller/Flickr)

On Sunday, March 29 at 10 a.m. the University of Massachusetts will hold its first Walk to Prevent Suicide, an event established by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness campaign.

The walk, which begins at the UMass Track and Field Complex, is three miles around campus, and is expected to last about two hours.

Participants have the option to walk individually, join a team or create their own team. They do not need to donate money; they may simply attend the walk to show their support. If they would like to donate, but may have difficulty coming up with funds, students are able ask family and friends to contribute to their team.

As of Wednesday evening, the 153 registered participants had raised $7,027 out of the event’s goal of $20,000. All proceeds go toward allowing AFSP “to invest in new research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy and support survivors of suicide loss,” according to the event’s website.

Grace Quinn, a junior at UMass and one leaders of the event, has been advocating for mental illness awareness both around campus and in Brett Hall where she is a Resident Assistant.

“Out of the Darkness hosted an event in my hometown and I wondered why we didn’t have a walk like this on our college campus, where mental illness is very prevalent yet often goes unnoticed,” Quinn said.

Quinn and other event leaders of the walk hope to attract participants from other consortium schools as well.

Before the walk begins, speakers and health professionals will discuss their own experiences with depression and suicide. Participants will be asked to wear representative beads based on their own personal encounters with suicide, and will be encouraged to speak about why they’re wearing their beads. If participants do not wish to speak publicly, they also have the option of writing down their reasons for being at the event.

“I’ve never been to (a suicide prevention walk) but I’ve been passionate about mental illness for a long time,” Quinn said. “This is such a large campus and we need more opportunities to focus on suicide prevention.”

Students and other participants may register for the walk online at afsp.donordrive.com/event/Amherst. There, they can sign up to volunteer, walk or even take a “virtual walk.” Registration closes on Friday, March 27 at noon.

Rachel Ravelli can be reached at [email protected]