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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Out of the Darkness walk welcomes community

Over 300 people from the UH and Houston community gathered to raise awareness of suicide at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s annual Out of the Darkness walk Saturday morning.

Although this is the seventh time UH has hosted the event, this year’s walk was led by Student Veterans of America, one of the newer organizations to be involved, for the second year.

“Suicide is one of the biggest health crises in the United States,” Counseling and Psychological Services Clinical Associate Director Chris Scott said. “It’s the second leading cause of death among young people in Texas.”

Cullen College of Engineering was the on-campus host and has been since the the inaugural walk in 2010. AFSP Southeast Texas board member Kathy Zerda was still a UH professor at that time and helped the college establish a chapter.

“That year, the national organization of AFSP was recommending to chapters that they try to engage local college campuses, so they started this program of campus walks,” Zerda said. “I was here on campus, so I said ‘well maybe we can get one started here at UH’. It was very small, but it’s grown each year.”

This year, the Wellness Center and CAPS set up booths to pass out information on suicide prevention and awareness. 

Veterans make up 20 percent of suicides each year, and before the walk started, SVA President Fontaine Wilson spoke on the importance of talking about it.

“Twenty-two suicides a day for veterans is an alarming statistic,” Wilson said. 

After Wilson spoke, Mariellee Aurelio, a health and human performance junior, talked about her own battle with suicidal thoughts.

“My story with suicide began when I was just eight years old,” Aurelio said. “I would have this recurring thought that someone was going to die because of me. At some point, I figured that if I was dead, no one else could get hurt because of me.”

After years of this paranoia, Aurelio decided to seek help in January 2015 at CAPS and the Health Center. Aurelio was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder.

Although she has still struggled with her illness, Aurelio said that life has gotten better and that she hopes she can help others in need.

“I share my story in hopes that by telling you my weakest, most vulnerable moment, you gain insight into this horrible symptom and grow resolved in fighting the stigma around mental illness,” Aurelio said. “There are a lot of people who need our help, and we can make a difference.”

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