Saturday, June 15, 2024

'Out of the Darkness' 5K raises over $10,000, gathers 250 attendees for suicide prevention

April 14, 2024
The Out of the Darkness 5k walk begins at People's Park on April 14, 2024.
The Out of the Darkness 5k walk begins at People's Park on April 14, 2024.

The walkout began at noon and had 250 people in attendance. Over $10,000 was raised for AFSP, and will be used for suicide prevention education, supporting survivors of suicide loss and suicide prevention research, according to the ASFP Michigan board of Directors President Reid Depowski-Knowles. 

Depowski-Knowles lost her mother and cousin to suicide. While the conversation around mental health and suicide has been consistent for the past couple of decades, she said, it’s gaining more momentum now. Depowski-Knowles, a licensed social worker and mental health therapist, said that 20 to 25 percent of the population have thought about suicide in their life.

"It's through efforts like this that more people are aware of this conversation is happening," Depowski-Knowles said. "We've always had mental health, and people have always died by suicide. But the more that we talk about it, the more of momentum the more of a conversation we have to change that."

outofdarknesswalk041424-ds-01

Depowski-Knowles said if her mother and cousin were here, she would tell them how the world would be a better place with them, as well as how much she loves and misses them. 

"But I (would also say), 'thank you for giving me the courage and the place to be a part of this conversation to help other people,'" Depowski-Knowles said. "Hopefully, more people don't have to lose their family and friends."

For science education freshman Mackenzie Koehn, it was her sixth time walking in the 5K event. Koehn was 13 when she lost her dad to suicide. It was a very difficult healing process and Koehn struggled with grief, regret, depression and anxiety. 

"When you lose someone to suicide, a lot of people point fingers and a lot of people blame themselves and wonder if there was something that they could have done differently," Koehn said. "That was something that I have felt."

Koehn worked through her trauma when she became involved with Suicide Prevention and advocacy in high school; now, at MSU, she helps organize the "Out of the Darkness" walk alongside CAPS counselors Courtney Brown and Sarah Fay-Koutz. 

"Suicide impacts all of us, whether it be our community (or) us personally," Brown said. "And it was just important to bring it to the campus community, as many of our students have also been impacted by suicide as well. So why not give them a safe space to heal together collectively?"

outofdarknesswalk041424-ds-02

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and the number of deaths increased by 2.6 percent between 2021 and 2022, according to the CDC

"I wish that (my dad) knew that I cared," Koehn said. "And that there were people who did care. And leaving this world, I know he felt like he had no other option ... and (that) he was making everyone’s life better. I don’t have a dad. There’s been so many things that he has missed out on and he will continue to miss out on. I wish I could just tell him I love him."

Fay-Koutz said suicide rates are increasing amongst all age groups, and it's hard to pinpoint a single reason as to why. She noted that there seems to be a "ripple effect" when students pass away by suicide at MSU. 

"I think our lives are stressful," Fay-Koutz said. "I think they're complicated. I think more and more folks are struggling with depression and anxiety. It's really complicated. I think there's a lot of trauma. I think everyone's story is really individual, but I think there are definitely some connectivity between reasons." 

outofdarknesswalk041424-ds-09

Human development and family science sophomore Emily Stephenson and her sister, kinesiology freshman Haley Stephenson, said they were walking for their mother's coworker’s son who passed away from suicide. His name was Felix. 

"It’s really important that everyone should be there for each other," Stephenson said. "Just being kind to each other can really make a difference in someone's day. If it's just a smile or a wave when you walk past someone walking to class or walking back to your dorm room, that can make a real difference in someone's life."

Lansing community member and Durand Middle School secretary Jackie Mavis said this was her third walk in honor of her friend’s son. 

"They need to do this in every community, in every weekend," Mavis said. "They need to be able to talk about (mental health) and be able to bring it into schools and help people and not be so judgemental. We’re not doing enough to help."

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Attendees like Fay-Koutz expressed their devastation and heartbreak from the increase in suicide rates, as well as those affected by mental health issues.

"We see you," Fay-Koutz said. "We care about you. We want you to be here."

outofdarknesswalk041424-ds-03

Discussion

Share and discuss “'Out of the Darkness' 5K raises over $10,000, gathers 250 attendees for suicide prevention” on social media.