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First walk for suicide prevention to be held

By Elaina Mancuso
On April 1, 2014

Mental health is important at every stage of life. It affects how we think, feel and act through our emotional, psychological and social well-being, according to Illnesses can include anxiety, mood and personality disorders, as well as suicidal behavior. 

In less than a month, the College at Brockport will host its first "Out of the Darkness Walk" conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The walk will be held Saturday, April 12, and will raise awareness of mental health and funds specifically for suicide prevention, research and educational programs. 

"Suicidal behavior is complex," the National Institute of Mental Health's website states. "Some risk factors vary with age, gender, or ethnic group and may occur in combination or change over time."

 What's more is that suicide is a preventable public health problem, which is why foundations like AFSP exist and many individuals are crusaders for the cause.

Event coordinator and counselor education student, Cassandra Fleck, first approached AFSP about bringing a walk to campus last year. 

Fleck has also received support from Prevention and Outreach Services as a sponsor for the event. Kayla Cercone and Teresa Campbell will serve as co-chairs at the event. 

Her main goal for this event is to start a conversation. 

"Too often people do not want to talk about mental health and suicide," she wrote. "This creates a climate where people do not seek help. I would like to work toward creating a climate where we are able to talk about the tough topics and people feel they are able to reach out for help when facing difficult times. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults, so it is extremely important for college campuses to have such a climate."

Fleck added that she believes the Brockport campus does a wonderful job supporting this type of atmosphere, but given the prevailing issue, she hopes the walk will further that.

In addition to starting a conversation and creating a supportive culture, there are several activities planned accompanying the walk, providing both education and entertainment. There will be speakers, accapella, music and a raffle with donations from Origami Owl, Tanning Bed, Wegmans and many more. Additionally, "A Tree of Hope" and "A Tree of Remembrance" will be constructed. Participants will be able to write a message of hope or create something in memory of someone they have lost to suicide to hang on the constructed trees.

"Before the walk we are encouraging people to fundraise for the cause," Fleck wrote. "There is a fundraising goal of $5,000 but we would love to far exceed that goal and have no doubt that as a college we will!"

Simply reaching out to family and friends to donate or posting a link to your registration page on social media sites can go a long way. Although fundraising is not a requirement, all money raised will benefit the AFSP, where funds will be applied to research, advocacy and community programming.

Anyone is welcome to attend, and those interested are encouraged to register for the walk ahead of time at April 12 participants will meet at the Union Mall where walk-up registration will begin at 11 a.m. and the actual walk will begin at noon. Registration is free, whether you sign up prospectively or at the event. The course length is two miles around the Brockport campus.

Personally attached to this cause, Fleck has witnessed first-hand, how the stigmatization and fear of suicide can impact everyone involved. 

"The majority of people are impacted by suicide at some point in their lives, so everyone has some connection with the cause," she wrote.

Start the conversation by creating a team, inviting friends and peers and walking together April 12.

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