By Elizabeth Ferrer-Alfonso
FIU’s sixth annual Out of the Darkness Walk to prevent and raise awareness of suicide —previously scheduled to take place on campus — is now going virtual on Saturday, March 21.
As students around the country are adjusting to the ‘new normal’ created by social distancing guidelines, mental health and suicide awareness have never been more important.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, according to the American College Health Association. And some studies show a connection between social isolation and suicide ideation, according to Brenezza Garcia, Associate Vice President of FIU Student Health & Wellness.
“For some students, there is a fine line between social distancing and social isolation. There are several studies that have connected social isolation with suicide ideation,” said Garcia.
Many people, especially students, are experiencing sudden uncertainty, anxiety, and depression during this time, which is why the walk will go on, she said.
The walk is sponsored by the American Federation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).Communities across the nation host local walks to increase awareness, fund scientific research and national programing, and provide resources to those impacted by suicide.
FIU’s virtual walk encourages participants to continue to fundraise and show their support through other means.
Participants can also share a motivational or inspirational message, create a poster or drawing, or utilize the “What’s Your Color?” chart to share their story by using the hashtag #FIUOutofDarkness and #FIUAFSP on social media platforms. They also can email photos and stories to Brenezza Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Virtual walkers can still walk the two miles by walking around their own neighborhood and tracking the distance with apps like FitBit, Apple Watch, or the Health App.
“We need to be kind to one another, generous with our time, and open to having uncomfortable conversations,” Garcia said. “The smallest gesture at a serendipitous time can sometimes save someone’s life.”
Those interested in learning more or registering as a virtual walker may visit afsp.org/fiu.