Suicide is a serious issue on college campuses across the nation, but stigmas surrounding mental illness can often prevent individuals from speaking openly about their feelings or asking for help. Last Saturday, nearly 200 people came together to help change those stigmas by participating in the annual Out of the Darkness UH campus walk for suicide prevention. Sponsored by the Cullen College's PROMES program, the 3-mile walk raised over $9,000 for 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 many student groups and individuals across UH came together to make the walk a success, including several engineering student organizations who raised money for the walk. Following the event, an Engineering Hope Cup trophy was awarded to the UH chapter of IEEE, which raised nearly $1,000 for the walk. MAES, the Latinos and Science and Engineering student group at UH, raised the second-most for the walk, pulling together over $500, with students from the Honors Engineering Program coming in third place by raising almost $200.
Zerda said she hopes to see the walk continue 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.