HARRISONBURG — Some 60 people braved a raw, windy afternoon Sunday to take part in a walk designed to raise awareness for suicide prevention.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Chi Sigma Iota, a professional counselors’ honor society at James Madison University, sponsored the fourth annual “Out of the Darkness” campus walk.
The campus walk is a fundraiser for local and national suicide awareness and prevention programs. It is also a forum that helps break the stigma that some people have talking about depression and suicide, the event’s founder, Lisa Ellison, said.
The campus walk is a place where people who have been affected by suicide can come together for support.
“Depression and mental illness are not always talked about,” Ellison said, noting that 90 percent of those who commit suicide have a diagnosable, treatable mental illness, according to studies.
Ellison, who founded the walk four years ago, lost a brother to suicide in 1997.
“He didn’t know how to ask for help,” she said.
As a result of his death, Ellison decided to try to help make more people aware about the disease of depression and those at risk for, or affected by, suicide.
She got together with several others who lost loved ones to suicide.
“We realized there’s a huge gap” between survivors and the help that they need to cope with their loss, she said.
That gave her the idea to start the campus walk.
“We wanted to create a venue for healing, a safe place for people who may be struggling,” Ellison said.
“As a survivor myself, it has been a great honor to start
something that has helped so many people,” said Ellison, now a pro-bono counselor at The Women’s Initiative counseling center in Charlottesville.
Sunday’s misty rain resulted in a shorter walk than usual for the participants, most of whom are JMU students. The walk is normally 5 kilometers, or 3 miles, but Sunday’s was only 1.5 miles.
This year’s event organizer, Meredith Reed, said that some $6,000 was raised for local and national
suicide prevention and awareness programs.
“We don’t people want people living in the darkness,” said Reed, 25, a JMU graduate student from Haddonfield, N.J., majoring in clinical and mental health counseling.
Several local agencies provide counseling services for those with depression. Examples include the Center for Marriage and Families, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Services Board and JMU’s Counseling and Psychological Services clinic.
For more information, go online at www.afsp.org.
Contact Caleb M. Soptelean at email@example.com or 540-574-6293.