According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), there were over 40,000 deaths from suicide in 2013, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
Troy Regional Medical Center is holding an Out of the Darkness Community Walk at Troy University in honor of Suicide Prevention Month.
The Out of Darkness Walks occur across the country each year, according to the AFSP website.
This is the first year for the walk in Troy, but Amy Minor, the event coordinator, said that she plans to make it an annual event.
Although the fundraising goal for this year was set at $5,000, Minor said the hospital has already raised over $10,000.
The money is being raised through donations. Minor said the donation process is like that of Relay for Life, with some small donations alongside corporate donations.
“This has already been bigger than we ever anticipated,” Minor said. “Our first priority was never just to fundraise. Our focus is on increasing awareness and helping those who have lost a loved one to suicide with their grief.”
“Fifty percent of the donations will go nationally to the AFSP,” Minor said. “The other 50 percent will stay in the state of Alabama. We are working on a formal proposal to keep the Troy funds in Pike County.”
Minor said she is confident that the request will be granted.
“We are hoping to make a direct impact in Pike County,” Minor said. “This is a growing problem, and we want to do all we can to prevent it.”
“Sixteen teams have registered so far and many more individuals,” Minor said. “Participants can register online or on the day of the event.”
Darunda Wilkins, a junior business management major from Montgomery and the SGA representative in charge of the event, said that everyone is welcome at the event and encourages students to attend.
“It shows the community that we are supporting them in the fight on mental health,” Wilkins said.
Honor beads will be handed out at registration to show a “personal connection to the cause,” Minor said.
Each color will correspond to a cause, with white beads representing the loss of a child and blue beads representing supporting suicide prevention.
Local musicians, including Lenny Trawick, Shelia Jackson and Cassidy Oswald, will perform during the walk.
There will also be a live butterfly release following the walk that Minor said is “a symbol of life and hope.”
Troy University’s Student Counseling Center is also participating in the prevention month with Trojan Outreach.
According to a campus-wide email that was sent out on Tuesday, the two groups are spending this week focusing on “ideas, information, and strategies for how to deal with life in healthy, positive ways.”
The week will include encouraging students to do “random acts of kindness” and use the hashtag #RAKTrojans on social media to share them.
Trojan Outreach is also hosting an educational lunch for Troy’s faculty and staff today to better prepare the staff for dealing with these issues with students.
According to the press release, during the lunch, attendees will “learn the signs of depression, campus resources, and have the opportunity for discussion.”
Fran Scheel, the coordinator of the Student Counseling Center, said that untreated depression is the main cause of suicide.
“It may feel a little uncomfortable to ask a friend or roommate if they are depressed,” Scheel said. “However, it is appropriate to express your concerns to your friend or roommate in a non-judgmental way and offer your support.
“Reaching out to a person who you suspect may be depressed or suicidal can motivate them to seek help and potentially even save their life.”
“Students can encourage their friend to consider counseling for help with their depression,” Scheel said. “Troy University Student Counseling Center offers free, confidential counseling.”
According to Scheel, there is a growing trend related to college students struggling with depression nationwide. She believes that Troy University students are experiencing depression consistent with the national trends.
“Students sometimes lack the healthy coping skills and support system to deal with the many social, academic and financial challenges they face in college today,” she said. “Stress can trigger symptoms of situational depression.”
“Early diagnosis and treatment of depression is key,” Scheel said. “Treatment can relieve depression symptoms, prevent depression from recurring, and help students succeed in college and beyond.”
Registration for the Out of Darkness Walk is free and begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13, while the walk is 3-5 p.m. at the track on Troy campus.
Students suffering from depressions or experiencing other issues can make an appointment at the Student Counseling Center at (334) 670-3700.