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Ohlone Sheds Light on Suicide in Fourth Annual Out of the Darkness Walk

Suicide strikes much closer to home than you may think. Nearly one million people make a suicide attempt each year, and more than 34,000 die by suicide.  At Ohlone College alone, 21% of students say they have considered suicide in the last 12 months, with 2.3% of students actually attempting to take their lives. (National College Health Assessment, March 2010)

But those suffering from depression or who have thoughts of suicide should not feel alone in their struggle.  Each year, hundreds of caring Ohlone College students and employees unite to raise awareness about suicide prevention through the annual Out of the Darkness Walk.

“The biggest barrier to providing support to those who need it is the stigma around seeking mental help. We as a country are still not comfortable talking about mental health issues the same way we talk about other health issues like heart disease,” said Sang Trieu, Program Manager at the Ohlone College Student Health Center.

“The main message of this walk is that there is social support,” Trieu continued, “both for those who are struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, and for those with friends or family who are suffering.”

“We’re also promoting regular mental health screening.  If you think about when you go in for a checkup, taking your blood pressure, weight and height are all part of the normal routine – we’re trying to get mental health screening to that level.”

Originally, the walk’s purpose was to honor Ohlone staff member Stewart Dawson, who fell victim to suicide in December 2010. Today, Ohlone's Out of the Darkness Walk contributes funds to vital research, education, advocacy, suicide prevention initiatives, and programs to support those impacted by suicide. Last year’s walk raised over $4,000.

Ohlone College’s efforts are assisted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).  “The AFSP has provided much support over the years to family and friends who have lost someone to suicide. It is quite an honor to work with them, and we hope to see community members participating,” said Ohlone College Student Health Center Director Sally Bratton.

Bratton added that the Out of the Darkness Walk is just one of Ohlone College’s year-round efforts to combat suicide. The STEP Up Program, funded by the County Public Health Department, has been working the last two years on promoting student mental health.

The STEP Up Program has trained faculty and staff to identify students who may need help.  “Last year we worked with the math department on how to help students deal with anxiety,” said Ms. Trieu.  “We taught them the importance of managing stress and mental health.  We’re trying to dig into all corners of college life and educating people on what role we all can play.”

This year’s walk will be held April 14. The walk is open to all who would like to take part.  The route begins in the Ohlone quad, between Buildings 1 and 5 on the Fremont campus, and the route circles the Ohlone College campus perimeter. Check-in begins at 11:00 am and the walk begins at 12:00 pm.  For more information and to register in advance, visit: www.ohlone.edu/go/campuswalk.

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