Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Active Minds to host fourth annual ‘Out of the Darkness Campus Walk’

The walk is devoted to mental health awareness, suicide prevention

%28Courtesy+of+Active+Minds+official+Facebook+page%29
(Courtesy of Active Minds official Facebook page)

(Courtesy of Active Minds official Facebook page)

(Courtesy of Active Minds official Facebook page)

By Lauren Crociati, Social Media Assistant

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According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second cause of death amongst people ages 15 to 34, affecting college-aged individuals and others living through a crucial time of growth and personal discovery. It is often an unspoken topic, as the stigma surrounding mental illness can significantly obstruct attempts to address it.

Active Minds, however, is a registered student organization at the University of Massachusetts that encourages its members to create a conversation about mental health, therefore taking strides to eliminate stigma and make known that seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of. As part of their many efforts to end discrimination against the mentally ill, the group is hosting the fourth annual 2018 “Out of the Darkness Campus Walk at the UMass Southwest Beach Quad on April 22.

The walk, which had its first event in 2010, is sponsored by AFSP, which aims to make those struggling with illness aware that they are not alone. The walk’s main mission is to bring awareness to these topics and start conversations that can be considerably difficult to participate in or start.

The organization also hosts community walks to make it clear that this is a global issue. Mental illness is something that, for many, is left in the darkness and avoided due to the effects of stigma, which can result in embarrassment or denial for anyone struggling with the effects. As a result, mental health conditions like depression or anxiety are often left untreated and leave those who suffer at risk of suicide.

Zahra Fatehi

UMass Active Minds President James Michaels, a senior computer science major, feels that his and the group’s duty on campus is to push students to participate in tough discussions, because, despite the fact that it may be difficult to start this conversation, it can truly help an individual in giving them the confidence and resources to seek help. The Out of the Darkness Campus Walk is planned to help improve awareness of these issues and their prevalence among young people.

“We’re trying to convince people to have a hard conversation,” Michaels said. “At our meetings, we usually get a group of people who already are knowledgeable about mental illness, which is sort of like we’re preaching to the choir. The question is, of course, how do we reach the people who need it more but are not as informed.”

The walk is an opportunity for those who seek to gain a better understanding of mental health conditions in a welcoming and supportive environment.

The UMass walk raised over $14,000 so far, and donations will be accepted past the event date through June 30. The event begins at 11 a.m Sunday and will meet at the Southwest Beach Quad and circle around the main areas of campus. Online registration ends at noon on April 20, but anyone interested will have the opportunity to register on site the day of the event.

Lauren Crociati can be reached at [email protected]

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