On April 21, UCSB will be hosting its first Suicide Prevention Walk through a collaborative effort between Associated Students and The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
The AFSP works to promote the understanding of suicide and the construction of support networks for those affected. As part of the AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness” community walks, UCSB’s effort will aim to raise $5,000 for suicide research and preventative efforts.
A.S. External Vice President of Local Affairs Rhandy Siordia said that A.S. and the AFSP are hosting the walk in conjunction with sponsorship by local restaurants including Woodstock’s Pizza, Crushcakes & Café and Sam’s To Go, to bring to light an issue that is immediately relevant to the community.
“Our school has never had a suicide prevention walk. This is one of the leading causes of death among college students and in our community and it seems like one of the issues that is given less attention than other issues,” Siordia said. “I figured this is a very pertinent issue to our community and I think that we should have a prevention walk — so this is our very first annual suicide prevention walk and we’re really excited.”
In order to participate in the walk, applicants must register on the AFSP website and then fundraise, with the person and team who fundraise the most winning $200. UCSB will join the large group of campuses nationwide that sponsor suicide prevention walks each year, and in doing so address an issue of immediate concern to the community, according to UCSB Health & Wellness Intern Advisor Joanna Hill.
“I think it is a really important issue, I see people suffering all sorts of ways and anything we can do to draw attention to the issue is important and what we can do to be a source of support for students,” Hill said.
The walk starts at 11 a.m. at Goleta Beach and will continue around campus until ending at 2 p.m. According to Siordia, in addition to the support of their friends and family, participants will have access to free food from local eateries Crushcakes, Woodstock’s and Sam’s To Go.
“We’re also very excited to be creating community partnerships with some of the restaurants in I.V. who are all providing free food at the event and we’re also really excited that the Mayor of Santa Barbara will be stopping by,” Siordia said.
Campuswide suicide prevention walks not only work to support victims and their families, but also increase public knowledge of suicide, its statistics, symptoms and possible solutions. Suicide was the 10th highest leading cause of death in 2010, and the 2nd highest leading cause of death for college-age students according to the AFSP website.
AFSP Public Relations Manager Wylie Tene said that on a more positive note, not all suicide statistics are pessimistic.
“90 percent of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide later in life,” Tene said.
Tene said the work of UCSB Associated Students and the AFSP to bring “Out of the Darkness” walks will hopefully set a precedent for more involvement in the future.
“Hopefully it has planted the seeds to future campus walks and will continue to grow and grow,” Tene said.