The walk was sponsored by other groups as well, including the University’s Counseling Center, the Student Government Association, the Capstone College of Nursing and SOS of Tuscaloosa.
Sean Ross, a senior majoring in political science who serves as the chief advisor for SGA President Lillian Roth, said the SGA is happy to support the walk and hopes to make suicide and mental health awareness a topic that is not limited to a week or two of discussion.
“The Out of Darkness Walk has been a major success every year it’s happened,” Ross said. “It’s a great way to end our current End the Stigma week that we’re doing this fall… We definitely do not view [mental health and suicide awareness] as a one week a year thing.”
This year’s walk began with expressions of gratitude from Kimberly Jenkins-Richardson, who served as the chairwoman for this year’s walk. She encouraged students to visit the information tables around the Ferguson Center and to receive more information on suicide and mental health awareness from organizations like the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, the University’s Counseling Center and others.
After brief remarks from Jenkins-Richardson, two UA students shared their stories about how suicide has affected their lives. Both said they had lost close friends, and encouraged everyone, especially those struggling with suicidal thoughts, to use the resources available to them and understand that they are not alone.
Right before the walk began, Jenkins-Richardson returned to announce the fundraising totals for this year’s walk. As of noon on Sunday, almost $60,000 had been raised, surpassing the goal of $40,000. In addition, she noted the two groups that raised the most money. Kappa Alpha Theta sorority was first with an undisclosed amount, and the Gunderson and Barrow family was second with roughly $16,300.
Afterwards the large group of students and others present walked around the University before returning to the Ferguson Center.
With the sizable crowd that was present and the words of the three speakers, one motif was abundantly clear: those who may be struggling with suicide are loved and not alone.