This past weekend, UVa held its first annual Out of the Darkness Walk on Grounds. The walk attracted over one hundred participants and raised nearly two thousand dollars for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The route began in the amphitheater and continued around Grounds in a one mile loop.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) holds Out of the Darkness Walks in communities and campuses nationwide. According to their website, suicide is “the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults.” This year, a group of UVa students decided it was time for the university to join a list of over 130 participating high schools and colleges across the country.
The Head Chair of the OOTD walk, Taylor Gestwick, headed the Executive Board of Farheena Mustafe, Davina Ariana, Erik Roberts, and Megan DeSisti. Second-year UVA student Erik Roberts, the Logistics Chair, spoke at the walk on Sunday morning.
“This walk means a lot to me because I know what it feels like to have someone close to you commit suicide, and I never want anyone to have to feel that ever again,” Roberts said, “More importantly, I can never know what my friends felt when they were in that place that they felt they would be better off not existing, and I can’t imagine that sadness, loneliness, or anxiety.”
Roberts also talked about the importance of living positively every day for the sake of others.
“I can work to show people that I am here for them and work to spread positivity to try to brighten people’s days so that they might feel a little bit better,” Roberts said.
Several students worked under each chair member in their respective committees. Second-year UVa student Denny Smyth helped Roberts in the Logistics Committee.
“I chose to be a part of the Logistics Committee for the walk because depression and mental illness has affected me and so many people in my life,” Smyth said, “This was one of the ways I thought I could best show my support not only for the people in my life, but for all who suffer in our UVa community and beyond.”
Smyth noted that the turnout was “incredible,” citing the the multitude of students, alums from the community, and AFSP board members in attendance.
For the future, Smyth sees promise for the impact and growth of the race in coming years.
“My hope for this walk is that it will become an instrument for change in how we see mental illness and depression, especially on Grounds. This walk will grow over the next few years and [will] show that when we stand together, we can spread positivity and support to those who need it through words, as well as, actions,” Smyth said.