People who lost a child to suicide wore white beaded necklaces.
People who lost a spouse or partner wore red beaded necklaces. People who lost a parent wore gold. Orange meant the loss of a sibling. Purple meant the loss of a friend or relative. Silver meant losing a loved one who was in the military or a first-responder. Green necklaces indicate someone who struggled with suicidal thoughts or attempted suicide. Blue meant the wearer supported suicide prevention.
Nearly all people at the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk to Prevent Suicide Saturday at Oregon State University wore at least one necklace. Many wore many.
Tess Webster-Henry, the OSU Counseling & Psychological Services employee who coordinated the event, said there are stigmas around suicide and mental health struggles that prevent people from getting help. The event was intended to break down that stigma and give people who have lost loved ones to suicide a chance to heal, Webster-Henry said.
“Suicide is something people are afraid to talk about, are ashamed to talk about,” Webster-Henry said. “We’re letting people know it’s okay to talk about it.”
The event, which was affiliated with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, included an information fair, a march around campus and speeches by several students who had struggled with suicidal thoughts or even attempted suicide.
Among the speakers was Lindsay LaMont, a fourth-year student on OSU’s women’s soccer team. LaMont described mental health struggles following sexual abuse she experienced as a child, a sexual assault by a fellow OSU student-athlete and the death of her father.
She said as she struggled there were many times she tried to text or call friends to say she needed help, but she couldn’t do it.
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“I felt like asking for help made me look weak,” she said.
LaMont said eventually she was considering self-harm and realized she needed to get help. She finally called a friend, who immediately went to her side and encouraged her to seek mental health care.
She said she got help through OSU’s counseling and psychological services program and she encouraged other people to speak out when they need help.
“Asking for help dos not make you weak. In fact, it makes you strong,” she said.
Evan Munn, on the men’s soccer team, also spoke at the event, talking about growing up in an abusive home and struggling with isolation in the wake of that trauma. At OSU, he said he found a home and teammates who supported him with his mental health struggles, he said.
“If it wasn’t for my teammates I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
He added that he and LaMont want to end the stigma that getting help is weak.
“The one thing that I’d like everyone to take away today is that it’s OK to not be OK,” he said.
Organizers said more than 300 people had registered in advance for the event and it raised more than $10,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which organizes similar events nationwide. Half of those funds go toward national research on suicide prevention. The other half goes back into local suicide prevention programs.
Anthony Rimel covers weekend events, education, courts and crime and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.