Photo by Ethan Castro (He/him)
Content warning: suicide
On the clear and sunny morning of Saturday, April 6, a group of over 100 Illinois Tech students, staff, and faculty members, alongside many of their families and friends, took to the streets of our campus to engage in the first ever Out of the Darkness Campus Walk to both fundraise and raise awareness of suicide prevention.
The first event of its kind to take place on the Mies Campus, this walk was organized by a variety of Illinois Tech individuals and organizations, including the student organization Active Minds, the Office of Campus Life (OCL), and the Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC). In addition, involved external parties included the Dave Duerson Athletic Safety Fund and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the recipient of the event’s fundraising.
In her opening remarks before the event began, AFSP Board of Directors Member Erika Barber described how the organization primarily engages in research on suicide prevention, development and implementation of programs to spread awareness of the issue, and advocacy efforts to encourage legislative changes to better the country’s treatment of mental health. Further information about the AFSP, including the other programs it offers and how to become a local advocate for the organization can be found on the organization’s website at afsp.org and by contacting Barber directly via email at [email protected]
In addition, special attention should be given to three Illinois Tech students who played a large role in making this walk a reality. Undergraduate student Kristin Wills described how she had lost a close friend to suicide in the last year and how the ensuing emotions she felt encouraged her to “let people know that you’re not alone and bring light to this topic on campus.” Active Minds President Mehak Hafeez and Treasurer Charmayne Duerson (both graduate students) also gave short introductions before the walk began, discussing how their personal experiences with the impacts of suicide have similarly encouraged them to make this day and walk a reality.
The walk itself saw the group of over 100 members traverse the entire length of campus twice, walking two laps in a circuit beginning westbound on 31st Street, going south down the entire length of Footlik Lane, eastbound on 35th Street, and then north on State Street back to 31st Street. Upon walking this route twice, the group was then met with a barbecue back at the starting point in front of Keating Hall alongside a resource fair staffed by the aforementioned campus offices and external partners.
As an academic institution oftentimes noted for its rigor, it is especially important that we as the Illinois Tech community take the opportunity to remember that we are not alone when it comes to matters of mental health and suicidal ideation. Resources are available to us, and by working together and having conversations about these important topics, we can do our part to end the stigmas surrounding mental health and suicide. By doing so, we can create a more welcoming and inclusive campus where we support one another during times of struggle and show that we are never alone in these struggles.
The Illinois Tech SHWC offers both individual counseling and case management sessions as well as walk-in triage sessions any time the office is open. Located on the third floor of the IIT Tower, the SHWC is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Further contact info can be found online at https://web.iit.edu/shwc.
Aside from the SHWC, if you are in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
Photo by Ethan Castro (He/him)