NSU hosts Out of the Darkness Walk to raise suicide awareness

The Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention will be held at NSU on Nov. 20.

The 3-5K walk benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. NSU’s Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. hosted the event for the last three years and has raised more than $40,000 for the organization.

The vice president and recruitment chair of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. Laura Villafane, junior biology major, is the chairperson for the Out of the Darkness Walk. She said Lambda Theta Alpha has won several recognitions for their involvement in the walk.

“It is our biggest walk. Every year we have about 300-400 walkers, which includes both the NSU and Broward community,” she said. “By raising funds, we are assisting the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention in its efforts to fund research and establish programs that will educate the public on ways that they can prevent suicide and save lives, advocate for mental health issues, and assist survivors of suicide loss,” said Villafane.

Heilit Biehl, graduate assistant for Training and Development in the Office of Residential Life and Housing lost her younger sister to suicide in 2004.  She participates in the walk each year in honor of her sister.

“I know when my sister started sharing with my family that she was depressed my family didn’t want to talk about it at first. They kind of kept it undercover, and it was unfortunate for her because she felt that she had this awful disease and she couldn’t share how she felt,” said Biehl.

Biehl thinks it is vital for people to understand that there are resources available to help them break free from their depression.

“We want to break the stereotype and stigma of being ‘crazy’ just because you may have suicidal thoughts,” she said.  “We want to have an open venue for discussion because we don’t want people to feel that they’re alone. To me, it’s about love. I don’t want to see anyone suffer and if showing up helps then I say ‘do it’. It’s the humane thing to do.”

The walk usually takes less than an hour and guests are welcomed back to the starting area for entertainment like poetry readings, speeches, and songs sung by various NSU organizations.

Villafane said, “Last year we had the nursing students do face painting for the kids. It was really nice. The kids especially love the butterfly launch, which takes place after the event.”

The event’s coordinators also plan to have a microphone set up so people can speak about the person they are walking for.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration begins at 8 a.m. in front of the Rose and Alfred Miniaci Performing Arts Theatre, and the walk starts at 9 a.m. Breakfast will be provided before the walk and various water stations will be available throughout the course.

To register or to donate to the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, visit www.outoftedarkness.org or call (954)262-7482.

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