Social Work Association brings community together to spread suicide awareness at Out of the Darkness Walk

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Editor’s Note: This story includes mentions of suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are resources available to help. The University of Indianapolis’ Student Counseling Center has resources available for anyone who needs it. To set up an appointment, call 317-788-5015 or email studentcounseling@uindy.edu.

In an emergency, you can contact the Crisis Text Line for free 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

For the first time in two years,  the University of Indianapolis Social Work Association brought the Out of the Darkness Walk back to campus as an in-person event on April 23. Working with the Indiana division of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), junior social work major and Social Work Association Secretary Hannah Dobbs is the head chairman for the UIndy Out of the Darkness Campus Walk. She said the event brought together the UIndy community as a whole, various Registered Student Organizations (RSOs), as well as non-profit organizations in the Indianapolis area.

“The walk in general really just means all of the community coming together and being vocal about this [suicide awareness]. Literally the name, ‘Out of the Darkness Walk’ is saying, ‘We’re going to talk about this, and we’re not going to sit in darkness about this topic,’” Dobbs said. “There’s a larger version of this walk as well in Indianapolis—the Indianapolis Out of the Darkness Walk—and they even have [a theme like] ‘Seize the Awkward’ because it’s an awkward conversation and we want to bring it to the forward and have more people talk about it.”

Dobbs said that the event included an opening ceremony, a bead ceremony in which each color of bead represents a reason why someone is attending, such as loss of a family member and the walk itself. The opening ceremony is where non-profits and RSOs set up tables and talked with students prior to the walk.

“… What that [working with non-profits and RSOs] does is it makes the walk more involving and so having tables and such for people allows people to see other organizations that help for the same cause because AFSP’s main cause is suicide awareness,” Dobbs said. “They want to spread awareness about that and mental health and ultimately other organizations also do the same thing. So we want to spread more awareness to other groups as well.”

According to Dobbs, the ceremony is put on in a way that people are able to talk about a serious topic without pushing social boundaries. Attendees were welcome to wear a specific color, as well as participate in the bead ceremony to signify how they have been affected by suicide, Dobbs said.

Senior social work major and Social Work Association President Madeline Abramson worked with Dobbs throughout the event’s creation and planning for the second year. Abramson said this is the third year in a row that UIndy has held the event, and each year it gets more exposure and promotion.

“I think the main picture overall is to show that even though we are different clubs, different organizations, [have] different views in any aspects, we all come together for the same cause and we all want to help prevent something that is very preventable,” Abramson said.

According to Abramson, with the walk being virtual last year, they had reached their goal over a month before the walk took place. She said they reached $8,000, while their goal was $5,000. Dobbs said all donations go directly to AFSP which uses their funding to create changes in policy and education to improve and lower the rates of suicide in the United States. Abramson said she went to a previous Out of the Darkness Indianapolis Walk in Sept. that proved to be impactful.

“I think it just truly helps everyone feel connected and not feel better, but feel that they’re not alone in it,” Abramson said. “That there is light at the end of the tunnel, that we are getting out of the darkness.”

Dobbs said she believes this type of walk brings mental health to the forefront of difficult conversations. She said it is a hard conversation to have and many people do not want to have those conversations,.

“The one thing I’ve talked about a lot when talking about this event is that mental health is something that a lot of people like to say they want to support, but deep down they don’t . . . ,” Dobbs said. “Having these walks allows people to come together and say, ‘We’re going to figure this out together,’ because I think that’s the best way to handle a situation like this, is community fixes these type of problems because community kind of causes them and we need to work to help people.”

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