Out of Darkness Walk unites student body around cause for hope

More than 150 members of the community joined forces to participate in the second annual Out of the Darkness walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on May 21.
Organized by counseling office secretary Lakesha McMillan and math and computer science teacher Mary Simms, the walk aimed to successfully illustrate the overwhelming dedication to suicide prevention and mental illness education.

Mary Simms, the walk aimed to successfully illustrate the overwhelming dedication to suicide prevention and mental illness education.

Students made up a large portion of the walkers, including senior Erin Brown who expressed a need to spread the message of the walk as far as possible. “[The walk] gave me time to reflect on how education on mental illness is the best move towards prevention, [and gives] safe spaces for teens to go if they’re feeling depressed or hopeless,” says Brown. “I wanted to show support to the Park and Miller family by doing the walk.”

The walk struck a personal note with one of the organizers, Ms. McMillan, as her 14-year-old son lost his best friend in 6th grade to suicide. “These walks bring awareness to our entire society, to America, to the world, to say that mental illness is real,” says Ms. McMillan. “It’s not a joke and it’s not a myth…mental illness is a real sickness.”

A testament to the coalition for the cause among our community, many clubs and organizations jumped at the chance to get involved with the walk. NHS advisor Katie Kodan encouraged society members to participate in some capacity, whether it was donating, volunteering, or walking. “We wanted to have an activity that everyone joined in on and this just seemed so fitting especially with what went on this year,” Ms. Kodan says.

While the walk lasted less than 2 hours, the significance of the walk will likely resonate with the community for much longer. Organizers of the walk designed it so as to unite participants of all ages by the differing volumes of which suicide prevention has affected them. The spectrum of colored beads worn by many walkers served as a token of this alliance, with each necklace representing a different reason behind joining the walk. The beads and walk are symbolic that, while many walkers initially participated to commemorate lost loved ones, many finished the walk in honor of those we can save.

In honor of their friendship and the bond, Peter Park and Ethan Miller shared with the whole senior class, Erin Brown and various seniors involved in guidance counselor Christina Kiedrow’s grief group hand crafted ribbons to wear at graduation in memoriam of two important members of the senior class. Part of Brown’s message and intent behind the ribbons is to convey the gravity of depression and mental illness. “Don’t let your friends shoulder the burden of depression on their own…there is always someone out there who will help. Don’t lose hope,” Brown says.