Suicide prevention walk to be this Saturday

Lilly McCann

The Georgia Southern University community was shaken last fall when a freshman student football equipment manager took her own life.

Friends and coworkers of Elizabeth Volker are holding an “Out of the Darkness” 5K walk Saturday to highlight suicide prevention. The walk will begin at 10 a.m. at the Russell Union, go up around Sweetheart Circle and back through the pedestrium. Check-in will be at 9 a.m.

“As the equipment staff, we thought it was important to bring this event to Georgia Southern in lieu of the recent suicides on campus, specifically our friend last semester,” Allison Little, football team equipment manager and GSU “Out of the Darkness” walk chair, said.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“People think that they chose it, but it’s something they can’t control. It could be depression or a mental illness that went untreated,” Little said.

“Everybody deals with depression, mental illness and suicidal thoughts differently. In our personal experience we had no idea Elizabeth was struggling with depression,” Little said.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will host the event, organized by Little and supported by Alpha Omicron Pi and the GSU football team, members of which will attend the event.

Closing ceremonies will include a balloon release of white balloons in honor of lost loved ones, and colored necklaces worn at the event will represent loved ones who have died from suicide.

“In Atlanta they released doves representing lost ones, and we’re going to try and create it with a balloon release. When I released the dove in Atlanta, it was the only time I cried. It was a powerful moment,” Kathryn Bailey, junior public relations major, said.

“Red that resembles the loss of a spouse, orange for a sibling and purple for a friend or relative,” Little said.

The number one cause of suicide is depression undiagnosed, untreated or ineffectively treated, according to the Suicide Prevention Services of America.

Only 30 percent of the 80 percent of millions of Americans that suffer from depression seek help and only half of those are effectively treated, according to the SPSA.

Currently 105 participants are registered to for the event, and the goal amount of $2500 has already been exceeded, Little said.

“This is one of the first campus walks in the South, and it’s really cool that Georgia Southern gets to do it,” Bailey said.

During the event there will be live music by Spencer Paul. The event will include a raffle fundraiser during which participants can potentially win an assortment of prizes, including a GSU package that contains a football autographed by the GSU football team and an exclusive sideline polo, Little said.

“People think (people die from suicide) because they are crazy or because it’s a mental thing, but its not. It’s literally a chemical imbalance that they can’t help,” Bailey said.

Bailey lost a family member to suicide and helped with a suicide walk in metro Atlanta, raising $6500, and is helping Little host GSU’s walk.

“Bring mental illness and suicide out of the darkness and make it more approachable so people can talk about it and bring it into the light. It isn’t this dark scary thing that people just don’t talk about,” Little said.

“Mental health awareness is a disease, just like cancer. We just really want to get the word out and get this information to people,” Bailey said.

The AFSP strives for a suicide free world through advocacy, research and education. All proceeds raised for and at the Out of Darkness Walk will go directly to AFSP.

Registration is preferred for the walk and can be accessed at www.campuswalk.org, but participants are welcome to walk the day of the event.

“Before the loss of a friend, suicide was not on my radar whatsoever. After we experienced that, I researched and if affects more people than you would think,” Little said. “Every fifteen minutes a person dies by suicide, so roughly 34,000 people a year, and that’s not including who they leave behind.”