Appalachian to hold second annual suicide prevention walk


The Appalachian Online

Tommy Culkin

Appalachian State will hold its second annual Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk on April 16.

The walk is a fundraiser to support local mental health organizations, and a way for participants to learn about resources for people contemplating suicide.

Mackenzie Morgan, a member of the event’s committee, said it is also a way for people to heal.

“Whether you’ve battled thoughts of suicide or know someone who’s passed away from suicide, the Out of the Darkness Walk is a way for people to come out with others who care about the cause,” Morgan said. “People are very quick to feel alone in that kind of situation, and feel like they’re the only ones going through it, but it’s not like that at all.”

There isn’t an entry fee, but participants are encouraged to donate money to the walk.

“We want people to give whatever they’re able to, or whatever they feel is appropriate,” Morgan said.

The money will go towards implementing an interactive screening program at Appalachian State through the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, Sami Damsky, the event’s committee chair, said.

Damsky said ISPs are helpful due to the fact that they are anonymous.

“The alternative would be to go to the counseling center,” Damsky said. “That’s a big step that lots of people aren’t ready to take.”

Some of the organizations and groups will be tabling at the walk include Boone Healing Arts Center, the High Country chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Daymark Recovery Services, the Counseling Center and the Mental Health Ambassadors.

There will also be a number of speakers at the walk. Two students will share their personal experiences, and Elizabeth Cavallaro, the suicide prevention coordinator, and J.J. Brown, the dean of students, will also speak.

According to Laura Cobranchi, a member of the event’s committee, the walk’s name comes from the stigma that often surrounds suicide.

“People dealing with ideations of suicide often feel alone and isolated, because it’s a topic a lot of people don’t want to talk about,” Cobranchi said. “By having these walks, hopefully we can shine a light on the issue and help save lives.”

Damsky said the event originated last year in response to the number of student deaths.

Last year, the Out of the Darkness Walk raised over $16,000. This year, they hope to raise even more money.

One of the reasons for their optimism towards this year’s event is the weather.

“Last year it rained, which I think held a lot of people back,” Cobranchi said.

Another reason for their optimism is that Appalachian State’s Greek Life is getting involved this time.

“A number of fraternities and sororities have gotten back to us and said they’d participate,” Cobranchi said. “That’s a connection we didn’t have last year.”

Cobranchi said that Appalachian State’s dedication to the issue of suicide awareness and prevention reflects highly on the university.

“I think we’re unique in that we have a suicide prevention coordinator, and we have events like this, and we have a whole week dedicated to raising awareness,” Cobranchi said. “I don’t think most other schools show that sort of effort.”

Story by Tommy Culkin, Senior News Reporter