Each year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention hosts the Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention. On Nov. 7, Samford students and faculty attended the walk to help promote suicide awareness on campus and in the Birmingham community.
University Counselor and Wellness Coordinator Lyndsay Clark has been in charge of organizing a group from Samford to attend the walk over the past three years.
“It is a hard thing to talk about. It’s hard for somebody to come even one-on-one in the counseling setting and talk about it, so for sure it’s not something where people are like, ‘I want to go learn about suicide,’ so we do our best,” Clark said.
The Out of the Darkness Walk is a fundraising event where the money raised is put toward suicide prevention efforts. The walk was held at Veteran’s Park in Birmingham. There are always food trucks and vendors at the event, making it lively and enjoyable for those in attendance. Clark explained that there was also a bead station, where participants chose different colored beads to wear while walking.
“(Each color) represents how you are connected to the topic of suicide,” Clark said.
Before the walk began, several speakers gave testimonies of their own experiences with suicide, including Samford Political Science Professor Marissa Grayson. Grayson is the former chair of the Alabama chapter of AFSP and the current chair of the Out of the Darkness Walk.
“The Birmingham Out of the Darkness Walk is a time for people impacted by suicide, whether they lost a loved one, have lived experience, work in the mental health profession or just care about the cause, to come together to raise funds for suicide prevention and spread a message of hope,” Grayson said. “The walk allows people to grieve together, to support one another, to remind each other they are not alone and to connect with resources in the area.”
A group of around 10 students and faculty from Samford attended the event with the Counseling and Wellness Office. Two graduate programs, the McWhorter School of Pharmacy and Cumberland School of Law, also brought large groups of students to the walk.
Clark explained that she was made aware of the event about three years ago, and Samford has sent a group ever since. This is Clark’s seventh year on staff at Samford, and she said that in the past few years, she has tried to provide more than just one-on-one therapy on campus, such as wellness cadres and other opportunities to discuss mental health. She tries to identify a specific wellness topic once a month. In September, the office focused on sexual assault awareness, and in November, they are focusing on depression and suicide.
“We have a good bit of students who come in and have had passing thoughts. It is something that’s pretty private; it’s hard to talk about in general. Being a part of the walk and putting information out there feels helpful. Maybe a student who needs it will stumble upon it,” Clark said.
Clark said that she believes the topic of suicide is very important to discuss, especially on a college campus where students are going through a lot of psychosocial developmental change.
“I think it’s good to talk about hard and awkward things. And that’s true in any field. We’re in a higher-ed setting, which is where students are exposed to new thoughts or new ideas or new ways of thinking about mental health or holistic health,” Clark said. “It just feels like a really great place to put that on students’ radars.”
AFSP had another successful fundraiser this year as it continues to raise money for suicide prevention efforts and education. Clark and the rest of the Counseling Office is looking forward to attending the walk again next year, and she encourages students to utilize the on-campus resources to educate themselves and others on important topics such as this.