Sac State’s annual Out of the Darkness Campus Walk goes virtual

Participants aim to promote suicide awareness and prevention

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Fong

Jessica Fong, a Sac State art major, made a poster that says "It is okay to ask for help!" and raised $375 in total for suicide prevention as part of Sac State's ninth annual Out of Darkness Walk on April 9, 2020. The walk was held virtually this year on social media platforms due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Piper Haitsuka

Sacramento State’s ninth annual Out of the Darkness Campus Walk to promote suicide awareness and prevention took place virtually Thursday, using social media platforms as a replacement for an in-person gathering.

The walk allows students to unite by making signs, sharing testimonials and walking together to raise awareness for suicide prevention. This year all of that happened online on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook instead of on campus, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and the reason Student Health and Counseling Services, Active Minds Sac State Chapter, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention come together each year to host this event on our campus,” said Lara Falkenstein, the event coordinator, via email.

Due to the importance of the walk, Student Health and Counseling Services set out to find any way to still make the event possible, Falkenstein said.

Donations to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are encouraged to help support suicide prevention. Registered participants who raised $100 or more got a free Out of the Darkness t-shirt as a thank you.

“The Out of the Darkness walk is a step in the right direction- we all need to take care of one another, especially now,” Sac State President Robert Nelsen said in an email. “We may need to be socially distant, but with the spread of COVID-19, we cannot afford to be emotionally distant.”

In a video posted on Sac State’s Out of the Darkness Instagram account, Nelsen and his wife, Jody Nelsen, said they are walking in honor of their son Seth, who took his own life in 2001 at age 25.

Story continues below Instagram video.

Participants followed along with the instructions on the Instagram and Facebook posts starting at 4:00 p.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m. A poster-making party, bead ceremony and virtual walk were some of the activities included at the event.

Participants were encouraged to share their personal stories in response to the prompt “Why I Walk” during the event on Instagram.

Photo courtesy of Aliyah Schiesz
Aliyah Schiesz, a psychology major, holds a poster that she made for the Sac State virtual Out of Darkness Walk on April 9, 2020. “I always participate in the Out of Darkness walk because my mom committed suicide in 2011, so I want to continue to honor her,” Schiesz said.

“I always participate in the Out of Darkness walk because my mom committed suicide in 2011, so I want to continue to honor her,” said Aliyah Schiesz via Instagram direct message.

Schiesz said that she even conducted a study about the Out of the Darkness walk for a senior project because of the impact it had on her life.

“What’s great about the Sac State Out of the Darkness walk is that these resources are local, and the participants are part of the campus community,” said Marielle Luhdorff, a biological studies major, via Instagram direct message. 

Photo courtesy of Marielle Luhdorff
Marielle Luhdorff, Sacramento State student and biological sciences major, created a poster for the “Out of the Darkness” virtual walk on April 9, 2020. The virtual walk included activities like making signs and a bead ceremony.

“Seeing others be open in conversation about mental health and suicide gives others the strength to share their own struggles,” Luhdorff said.

Luhdorff said that her reason for walking is to let friends and loved ones know that their mental health matters and they are not alone. In addition, she said, there are always resources and people available; the first step is to reach out to them.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK or 1 (800) 273-8255.