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March to raise money, awareness for suicide prevention

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The Appalachian Online

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention established the Out of the Darkness movement in 2007, a series of marches that seeks to raise awareness and funding for suicide prevention efforts. Appalachian State University will hold its first Out of the Darkness walk on April 25.

“It’s a support for survivors of [attempted] suicide, and families and friends of suicide victims,” said Jodie Clouser, a junior middle grades education major and one of the organizers of the walk. “It’s to get people talking and to get change from the way things are currently going.”

Clouser believes events that raise awareness of suicide are important because the issue is often ignored.

“I think there’s this stigma about mental health, or when it’s talked about, it’s not in a way that’s productive,” said Clouser. “That’s why I feel like it’s called Out of the Darkness: because we’re bringing light to the issue.”

Sami Damsky, a senior appropriate technology major who’s one of the organizers of the walk, said the walk has a heightened importance this year because of the tragedies Appalachian has had.

“It’s definitely important after losses to suicide to bring our community together, because now people are aware, and want to learn about it and do something about it,” Damsky said. “Not that it’s more important because of the things that have happened, but people will understand its importance more.”

Clouser said the committee organizing the event is trying to reach out to different clubs and organizations on campus to convince them to walk as teams.

In addition to the outreach to clubs and organizations, the Counseling Center has agreed to help promote the walk.

In addition to the walk, there will also be a memorial to the Appalachian students who have committed suicide, speakers before the walk begins and booths of mental health providers that will give out information.

“It’s a three-in-one event, because you’ll memorialize it, learn about it and spread awareness by doing something positive,” Damsky said.

The walk will begin at 9 a.m. on Sanford Mall and will last until noon. It will cover roughly three miles, although the route has not been formally determined yet.

People can register to walk or donate money at afsp.donordrive.com. Participants will also be able to register at the event, beginning at 8 a.m. until the walk starts.

The Out of the Darkness walk is not restricted to Appalachian students and faculty, and community members are welcome to participate as well.

Although registration is free, people are also encouraged to donate. Half the donations will go directly to the AFSP for research, education and advocacy. The other 50 percent will be used locally to expand suicide prevention efforts at Appalachian.

The event organizers set a donation goal to raise $5,000 by the day of the walk. At press time, $1,430 have been donated.

If you have any inquiries about the walk, you can contact Damsky by emailing her at samidamsky@gmail.com.

Story: Tommy Culkin, News Reporter

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