PLATTSBURGH — Suicide survivors joined with caring participants for the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk, held last weekend at SUNY Plattsburgh.
The event raised awareness and brought in money for research and educational programs. As of Tuesday, donations totaled $2,940; the goal, with a cutoff date of July 1, is $7,000.
Among the speakers was Mary Gillen, who lost her son, Justin “J.C.” Christian, to suicide in 2006. She said that no one would have known by looking at her young, athletic son that he was at risk.
“That’s why I do this,” she said of participating in the walk, “so people do know it can happen.”
The event, which started at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House, brought back many memories for Gillen. She remembered how her son played basketball there, how he graduated from high school there and how, years before that, she had taught him to ride his bike in the parking lot.
Now, Gillen is committed to events like the Out of Darkness walk.
“I need to spread the word,” she said.
The event, part of a national program through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, was organized locally by Walk Committee Chair Maggie Edwards, a SUNY Plattsburgh student and member of the Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority.
Edwards, who lost a brother and a friend to suicide, wants people to be educated about the warning signs that someone may be considering ending their own lives.
Then, she said, they should be willing to ask directly if the person is thinking of suicide. If so, “stay with that person and make sure they’re safe, and get them to the resources on or off campus.”
As of Tuesday, according to the American Foundation’s website, Edwards had raised $875, topping her personal goal of $400.
According to the foundation, the most common risk factors include: