UH to host Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide awareness
The Cullen College of Engineering is teaming up with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to host the seventh annual Out of the Darkness walk 9 a.m. Saturday at Lynn Eusan Park.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24,” AFSP Southeast Texas board member and retired UH professor Kathy Zerda said. “We hope that by walking, we can save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.”
The walk started in 2010 as a small effort and was represented mostly by individuals within Cullen College.
“In more recent years, we’ve gotten more groups outside of engineering involved, so it’s truly a campus-wide event,” Zerda said.
Student Veterans of America is one of those new organizations. The group will be walking in and leading the event for the second straight year.
“The veterans, they know how to lead, and I think they need to be recognized for what they have done,” Zerda said. “I feel like it’s important for the rest of the community to see what they have given to the country.”
Compared to the U.S. population, veterans have a 41 to 61 percent higher risk of suicide, according to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
“We just want to raise awareness,” marketing junior and SVA Public Relations Officer Rose Cervantes said. “Whenever you walk for suicide, that’s one purpose or one cause that if you really raise awareness, it can make a difference.”
SVA President and petroleum engineering senior Fontaine Wilson will be one of the keynote speakers at the event.
In addition to the walk, the event will have several speakers, informational booths and a DJ. Out of the Darkness will end with a tribute to those who have committed suicide.
“We allow people to submit the names of lost loved ones,” Zerda said. “At the end of the walk, we have students call out the names of those we are remembering.”
For the first time at UH, the University has an AFSP campus ambassador: human nutrition and foods junior Mariellee Aurelio.
Aurelio, who will be a speaker at the event, has dealt with her own suicidal thoughts and would like to help others in need.
“I’ve been through it,” Aurelio said. “I want to be a voice for a topic where not a lot is being said. I want to be a face for an illness so belittled and stigmatized.”
While registration is free, participants are asked to RSVP and fundraise for the event, although fundraising is not mandatory to attend.