In a show of campus-wide solidarity against the stigmas surrounding mental illness, nearly 300 participants raised over $17,000 for the sixth annual Out of the Darkness campus walk that took place at the University of Houston on Saturday.
The walk, sponsored by the Cullen College’s PROMES program, is a short, 3-mile walk around campus with huge impacts. Money raised by participants directly helps the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to perform vital research and establish education programs to prevent suicide, increase national awareness about depression and suicide, and provide support for survivors of suicide loss.
Kathy Zerda, retired PROMES director and chair member of the Houston AFSP chapter, coordinated the event. She said part of this year’s success was due to the inclusion of new organizations, like the UH Student Veterans of America (SVA). “This year's Campus Walk was a success, primarily because of the groups from across campus that were represented for the first time,” she said. “The SVA led the walk carrying their banner in honor of military veterans, while teams from Cougar Village 2, the National Residence Hall Honorary, UH Gamma Iota Sigma, Sigma Phi Epsilon, UH Zeta Phi Beta and UH Delta Sigma Pi joined in the Campus Walk for the first time. Many teams joined us from the surrounding communities.”
The walk continues to grow each year, and with suicide remaining the second-leading cause of death for college-aged students (18-24), the gravity of the event could not be more relevant at UH. “The Out of the Darkness Walk has become a campus-wide annual forum to spread hope and education to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness so that those who suffer will seek help,” Zerda said.
Though the walk is over, donations will still be accepted on the UH fundraising page until June 30.
Check out the pictures from this year’s Out of the Darkness Walk here.