In the courtyard between the International Center and Wells Hall on Sunday, April 16, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention workers and volunteers greeted each other while wearing shirts that read “Hope Walks Here.”
They began preparing for the “Out of the Darkness” campus walkout, which brought over 50 people in support of suicide prevention.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP, is a health organization that aims to bring care to those who are battling suicidal thoughts and mourning from its impact. The walkout was held in collaboration with MSU’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services.
Different impacts of suicide
Before the walkout began at 1 p.m., attendees were urged pick up different colored beads — each color representing a different reason for why someone is affected by suicide.
Purple: the death of a friend or relative.
Orange: the death of a sibling.
Silver: the death of a military member or first responder.
Gold: the death of a parent.
White: the death of a child.
Red: the death of a partner.
Teal: supporting a family member or friend who struggles with mental health issues.
Green: experiencing a personal struggle.
Blue: supporting the cause.
Rainbow: the death of a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Each person who came to the walkout wore at least one bead. Most wore at least two.
Before the walk began, a moment of silence was held for those who have died from mental health issues. Attendees, workers and volunteers raised their beads in the air in unison to show support.
Goals for the event
Event organizer Courtney Brown, who works for CAPS, had several goals for the walkout. She wanted to bring awareness to suicide and let people know they don't have to suffer alone. Brown said she saw “smiling faces despite the purpose" of the event.
Brown hopes that in the future, AFSP’s Michigan chapter can raise enough money to bring more community resources, research and support to those that we’ve lost and are currently fighting.
Organizer Liz Baker, who serves as the AFSP Michigan chapter secretary, has volunteered at the organization for over a decade and works for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“Suicide touches anybody and everybody,” Baker said. “(We’re here) to show that this is a safe space to come together where you don’t have to do this by yourself, to gain support and to gain resources.”
Organizer Sarah Fay-Koutz has worked with CAPS for eight years and the Out of the Darkness walkout for four years. She works with students every day that are a part of two communities: the MSU community and those impacted by mental health issues.
Fay-Koutz is continually trying to reduce suicides on campus with the students she works with. Fay-Koutz said she has lost old classmates and clients due to suicide, which is one of the reasons why she started going to the walkouts. Every year she is saddened by the number of students that have been affected by suicide and believes that the impact it has on the students creates a ripple effect, she said.
Walking in solidarity
Brown, Baker and Fay-Koutz each gave speeches and talked about walking in solidarity.
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“By joining us, you’re part of a national movement,” Baker said. “By walking with us, you honor the memory of loved ones we’ve lost.”
Fay-Koutz said every single person that joined the walkout was there because of care and hope. They care for those who have died, those struggling and everyone that has been affected, either directly or indirectly, by suicide, she said, and they hope the event will bring more awareness to the issue.
“As we gather here today, we remember those reasons and we share symbols to keep them in our sight and in our hearts,” Brown said while lifting up her beads. “With the mental health fight, struggle and our grief, we’re still here to stand firm and in solidarity together to promote mental health suicide prevention.”
According to Baker, fundraising the walkout and other campus events helps AFSP bring resources, training, education and programs to the communities that they visit at no cost.
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