USM Walks ‘Out of Darkness’ for Suicide Prevention

USM’s School of Psychology hosted its annual “Out of Darkness” walk and fundraiser for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention March 10. This year’s event was organized by clinical psychology graduate student Morgan Buerke. Families and community members who were impacted by suicide came together to raise awareness and share their stories. 

The School of Psychology has been hosting the “Out of Darkness” walks since 2018. Campus walks are one of AFSP’s major fundraising programs. This year’s event attracted 170 participants and raised $8,677.20 

In addition to the walk, different organizations tabled at the event offering resources and encouragement. Banners hung with pictures of people who died by suicide that people could write messages to them. At the top read the phrase “Grief is the loudest sound I’ve ever heard.” A table of beaded necklaces in assorted colors, with each one corresponding to the wearer’s relationship to suicide and suicide prevention. Even campus therapy dog Cash Money appeared with his trainer, Melinda Lowery. 

Morgan Buerke, a doctoral student in The School of Clinical Psychology, coordinated the walk this year. She hopes that the walks provide a source of community and action.  

“Everybody gets together, and people say that ‘this is a problem. But also, not just that this is a problem, but that ‘we want to do something about it and we’re all together and a lot of us have suffered.” 

Attendees whose lives have been impacted by suicide shared their stories. They also shared a key piece of advice for those struggling with their mental health: reach out to someone. 

 “Talk to somebody, talk to somebody, talk to somebody,” says Buffy Brookes, who lost her daughter to suicide 17 years ago. Her involvement in the Out of Darkness Walks helps her cope with the loss, as well as help other people who have the same issue. 

“They never know if somebody that they’re talking to has been there themselves and is still here and can help them,” she said.  

AFSP was founded in 1987 with the mission of supporting research, education, and policies on suicide prevention and supporting those who are impacted by suicide. According to their website, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2020, the suicide rate for people 15 to 24 years-old was 14.24%. It is the third-leading cause of death amongst young people. 

If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact 9-8-8 and reach out to Student Counseling Services.