Isabella Hudziak, Staff Writer
The second annual Suicide Prevention Walk took place on Oct. 7. Walkers were able to form groups of six to complete the socially-distant path. From noon to 3 p.m., both in-person and digital walkers were able to show their support for Suicide Prevention promoted by Active Minds, run by Sadé Cardin, the club’s adviser.
This year, the Suicide Prevention Walk was supported by other college organizations. More than $800 was raised for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in collaboration with several campus organizations.
“Last year we raised $400 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and had about 30 people come to the walk,” said Mercedes Steele, a senior who is also president of Active Minds. “We had about 80 people do the walk or come by the pledge tent when it was raining. Despite the weather, we had more people come out this year.”
Senior and President of the Utica College Dance Team Emily Surace noted the importance of helping out in such a valued cause.
“I agreed to have Utica College Dance Team help out because of how important this is on a college campus,” Surace said.
Surace is a Psych Child Life major who stood at the Suicide Prevention Walk finish line.
“The suicide prevention walk is definitely important – it allows those who are hurting in silence to know people are still there for them,” she said.
Steele founded the Suicide Prevention Walk to bring awareness to suicide prevention. In a speech about her own personal struggles with suicidal thoughts, Steele explained how the intent of the walk was to support others in similar situations.
“This is something we need to recognize, but also be there for people more often and ask how they are truly doing and feeling,” Steele said. “There’s more behind the words ‘I’m fine’ and we need to recognize that.”
Active Minds is a mental health awareness organization that focuses on breaking stigmas and generating conversations about mental health. This organization sponsors multiple events, such as virtual Speak-Out Sessions, open conversations, Kindness Week and Mental Illness Awareness Week.
The course was mapped by student Cara Patterson. The walk started at Duffy Plaza, wrapping around Boehlert Hall with a route through the grass by South Hall. After passing through South Hall, walkers were directed around Bell and Tower Halls towards the Athletic Center straight towards Pioneer Tent at Strebel’s back lawn.
“We used the Unity Walk as an example last year where we started the walk,” Steele said.
Several signs were placed along the route displaying slogans such as “I want you to be alive” and “It’s okay to not be okay.” Statistics of suicide rates, specifically that of marginalized groups, were sprinkled about the path.
Active Minds made sure measures were in place for COVID safety. They contacted Shad Crowe and Musco Miller, vice president of emergency management and director of Campus Safety respectively, to follow protocols. Hand sanitizer was available and there was a limit of only six members per walking party.
Google Hangout links were presented via Utica College email. Active Minds Secretary Tegan Kurucz suggested the option to have virtual walking buddies and also made the Suicide Prevention Walk logo.
In the middle of the allotted walk times, the weather took a sharp turn. Heavy rainfall and blustering winds overtook the campus. Active Minds ushered walkers beneath the Pioneer tents on the Strebel back lawn. Spread out on the tables were banners with supportive messages where attendees could sign. The walk was cut short, but some said the impact was timeless.
“Even though I could not really walk, I felt that just being able to be there and show my support for such an amazing cause is something I’m glad I got the experience to do,” Senior Zoe Wood said. “To see an event where I can see so many active members of the UC community coming out and showing their love and support means so much to me.”
Suicide is a topic that affects many Americans. Events such as the Suicide Prevention Walk and other donation opportunities exist to spread awareness for such a prominent, yet extremely personal, topic. Utica College’s student IDs have the telephone numbers for Campus Safety, Counseling Center, Crisis Text Line, and Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Online resources are also available to all, such as the Trans Lifeline and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.