Rollins students will partake in the 15th annual Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk, organized by the Central Florida chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), on Feb. 5. The walk is sponsored by the Rollins Psi Chi Honor Society, an organization for psychology majors.
“We wanted to start a chapter [of the AFSP], but we had to do a walk first,” said Dr. Vicki Long, the walk’s co-founder. “So we did the walk and started our chapter, and we were one of the first ones to start a walk in this area. It’s an opportunity for people who have—in one way or another—been affected by suicide to come together and remind each other that they aren’t alone in this struggle.”
Long is an administrative assistant at the Rollins Department of Psychology. She was inspired to start the Rollins chapter after losing her father to suicide in 2004.
The walk’s participants will gather at Lake Baldwin Park across the street from 2420 Lakemont Ave. at 7:30 a.m., embarking at 9:00 a.m. The starting line will feature vendors, booths from other mental health organizations, on-site mental health counseling, and more.
“It’s a surprisingly uplifting event,” said Charlotte Kelly (‘22), co-chair of the Rollins Psi Chi Honor Society. “With a topic as fraught and taboo as suicide, you would expect the walk to be somber, but it’s not. Getting all these people who have been affected by suicide together shows everyone that they have people who care about them and understand what they’re going through.”
Participants will have the option to wear colored bands on their arms denoting their connection to suicide, such as whether they have lost a loved one or struggled with suicidal thoughts themselves. These bands allow participants to see what others have experienced, without the need to ask probing questions.
At the end of the day, Long said she hopes that this event will make people who are struggling with mental health issues feel supported.
“Now more than ever, people are dealing with a lot of stress,” said Long. “Just look at the last two years. People need to stick together and look out for each other. Attending this walk is a way of saying ‘I see you, I understand you, I’m here for you.’”