Out of the Darkness walk raises $9,000 for suicide prevention

Liberty football team carrying banners

According to the World Health Organization, more than 703,000 people take their own lives every year, making suicide the third-largest cause of death worldwide.

To shed light on this, Liberty University’s Student Health Center and Wellness Initiatives hosted the Out of Darkness Walk on Saturday, April 20. The 1-mile walk around campus drew in over 300 students and raised more than $9,000 for suicide prevention.

“This is a milestone for us as a community at LU,” Senior Associate Director of Health and Wellness Natalie Peyton said. “Suicide hits close to home for many of us, including those in the student body, and we’re determined to break down the barriers to talking about it and finding help.”

Before the walk, participants were encouraged to wear beaded necklaces depicting a unique color which symbolized his or her connection to suicide. Some wore teal to represent an individual who is currently struggling; others wore green if they were personal survivors of thoughts or attempts. Gold represented the loss of a parent, red the loss of a partner and white the loss of a child.

students picking necklace colors at event

Students created colored necklaces for the event symbolizing their connection to suicide prevention | Photo by Maddie Kent

To kickstart the event, participants gathered to hear from sophomore Kristen Lay, a student who originally pitched the idea of holding the walk, as well as Louis Alvey, a counselor at the Counseling and Psychological Services office.

Lay shared her personal experience with suicide, noting the death of her uncle. She used this to encourage students and to remind them that they aren’t alone on campus.

“By standing here today, you’re sending a message that no one is alone,” Lay said. “You’re showing that reaching out for help is a strong thing to do. You’re showing others that there’s hope in this world, that death has been defeated and nothing can stand against our God.”

Alvey then took to the podium to remind students of Liberty’s mental health resources and to reiterate the meaning behind the walk.

“We’re going to educate our community, and we’re going to tear down the walls and stigma that keeps so many people from reaching out and getting the help that they need,” Alvey said. “I’m very excited about what this day means for us today as a Liberty University family, what this will mean in the years to come for our community here on campus and the lives that are going to be positively impacted by what you all are doing today.”

women's soccer team holding signs

The women’s soccer team took part in the 1-mile walk | Photo by Maddie Kent

From there, participants began the 1-mile loop around campus, passing by a variety of tables set up along the route housing suicide prevention resources with Bible verses and words of encouragement.

Out of Darkness Walks are held at campuses and cities nationwide to raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“This initiative sheds light on an issue where every single one of us can make a difference in prevention,” Peyton said. “For those grappling with challenges, the warmth of community support will be palpable. And for those who aren’t directly affected, accessible resources will empower them to keep a vigilant eye on their loved ones, ensuring no one slips through the cracks.”

The foundation is still accepting donations. To donate, visit this website.

Hess is a news reporter for the Liberty Champion

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