Rev. Eric Detar, College chaplain (left) and group of students gather in front of a poster, signed by dozens of students showing support for those affected by suicide at the 2017 One Walk. Samy Hamdan '19 (kneeling in front) has helped organize the event for three years.
Each year, nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide, making it the 10thleading cause of death in the country. It is the second-most common cause of death among college students.
At one point in her life, Adriana Stoddard-Oliphant ’20 feared she could have been part of those statistics as she had suicidal thoughts.
“I overcame these thoughts through my love of reading,” she says. “I used it as a coping strategy until I was able to get the help that I needed here at the counseling center. After I realized that I needed more help than that, I started seeing someone in the health center and we decided that medication was the way to go. I can’t stress enough about getting the help you need if you’re suffering.”
In order to raise awareness of the prevalence of suicide, Adrianna, a child and family studies major, is joining with occupational science majors Alexis Frederick ’21and Samy Hamdan ’19 to organize the College’s ninth annual One Walk on Sunday, Sept. 16. Sponsored by the Center for Spiritual Life, this year’s event begins at 6 p.m. on the Norton Chapel lawn.
Designed to shine a light on suicide awareness and prevention on campus, the event will be an evening dedicated to intentional conversations about suicide with students. Activities include a three-mile walk around campus, facts about suicide, and a vigil to remember those who have died by suicide—one person every 12 minutes in the U.S.
“We all get emotional sometimes, we all have our own pain,” says Samy, who is helping to organize the walk for the third time. “And it can be hard to verbalize. By participating in this walk, it’s a sign of solidarity and I am saying ‘I’m here for you.’”
Because of her experiences, Adriana believes she has a deeper understanding of what another person may be going through.
“I know what it is like, and I want to show others I am here for them,” she says. “You are not alone.”
“Suicide is not an easy topic to talk about,” says College Chaplain Rev. Eric Detar. “Everyone feels alone sometimes, and it can be hard to articulate your personal pain. The CSL has other ways to express how you are feeling, which could be making a bracelet, or other arts activities. You don’t need words to verbalize how you feel, and I appreciate that the CSL has this platform. I think this matters a great deal.”
“I am excited to be involved in something that makes a big impact in someone’s life,” says Alexis. “I think this walk can help someone see that even though we all struggle, there is help.”
In addition, there will be performances by slam poets, and several campus clubs will staff tables and host activities. Representatives from the Yates County Veterans Office and the Yates County Coalition on Suicide Prevention will also be on hand, and a bonfire will wrap up the evening.