College senior organizes Out of the Darkness Campus Walk to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention teamed up with a local college senior to raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention Sunday.

A walk was held at Nay Aug Park to spread the message.

“Everyone that came out today is supporting either myself, someone that struggled, or someone that attempted themselves,” organizer Bianca Gifford said.

Gifford’s father committed suicide when she was 15 years old. She organized Sunday’s Out of the Darkness Campus Walk in his memory.

She is the first student in NEPA to partner with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and host a walk. More than 60 people walked around Nay Aug Park in hopes to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention.

“It’s a very hushed topic. Nobody really talks about it and we need to end the stigma and talk about it more,” Gifford said.

Participants were invited to wear color coded beaded necklaces to represent their experience.

“The green is for your own personal struggles. Purple is for loss of a friend or relative. These are just support about suicide awareness and prevention,” participant Katlyn Rash said.

Rash tells me her friend, April, committed suicide in 2015.

“I think about her every day. So I just want to raise awareness so more of my friends know that they’re not alone if they do deal with that,” Rash said.

The pandemic has caused an increase in mental health issues.

“People have been cooped up inside and they didn’t know what to do, and they definitely have increased. So that’s why it’s super important to have this walk, especially after COVID,” Gifford said.

She urges people who need help to reach out.

“There’s definitely a crisis line, always. You can always call the suicide hotline, someone will be there 24/7. Talk to your family and friends. Reach out see if everyone is okay. It is so important to say ‘how are you doing today’ because that can go from someone being depressed to someone who is happy, just saying ‘how are you today?’,” Gifford said.

The Out of the Darkness Community Walk for Greater Northeast Pennsylvania is currently scheduled at Kirby Park on September 12th.

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