Editor's note

Content warning: This story contains mention of depression and suicide.

Oregon State University’s 2023 Out of the Darkness Campus Walk will honor the lives lost to suicide among the LGBTQ+ community on April 15 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting at the Student Experience Center plaza.

The event is hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and OSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, according to Sirena Prog, co-chair of the Out of the Darkness Committee. 

Students, faculty, family members and community members can sign up on an online registration portal for free. The registration portal is also accepting donations to raise money for suicide prevention.

The event will include a registration check and resource fair from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., where participants can paint rocks to share with the community and pick up colored beads, called honor beads, to wear that represent their experience in regard to suicide.

“I think one of the main purposes of the event is to garner a sense of community… just the feeling that you’re not alone,” said Julianna Budnick, co-chair of the Out of the Darkness Committee. “It is really inspirational to know that people in your similar place have overcome the same things as you.”

This year, the event will include rainbow-colored honor beads for people who have lost someone with an LGBTQ+ identity. According to Tessie Webster-Henry, mental health promotion and suicide prevention coordinator, honor beads are available for most types of personal struggles and most types of loss.

At 11 a.m. on the day of the event a live program will be held with speakers, including some members from the LGBTQ+ community, that will share their own experiences and invite people to raise their beads to help people feel less alone, according to Webster-Henry.

“A lot of times people don’t want to share that they’ve lost a family member to suicide; there’s a lot of shame and stigma around that,” Webster-Henry said. “We’re trying to break down that stigma and remove the shame so that people can get support.”

Afterward, at around noon, participants will go on a walk as a group through campus, placing their painted rocks with positive phrases among the community for people to find.

“[It’s] a way to do something together to bring some awareness of this topic and to have a showing in the community of all these people who’ve been affected by suicide so others will feel more safe to reach out for help and to know that they’re not alone in their grief,” Webster-Henry said.

Webster-Henry handles the logistical work for the event, while the student-led committee handles other planning elements, including deciding the focus for the event. People who are interested in getting involved can contact Webster-Henry.

“It helped me through a lot of hard times, just seeing these really inspirational people that have really incredible stories of resilience and courage and strength,” Prog said.

Here are free resources provided by Webster-Henry, Prog and Budnick for students to use during mental health crises or in distress:

Trevor Project – provides information and support for people, including LGBTQ+ youth.

Orange Media Network

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David Li, Orange Media Network

David Li is a news contributor for The Daily Barometer at Oregon State University