Mental Health Awareness Event Draws Large Crowd, Raises Over $10,000

Thursday, November 8, 2018

by Brittany Baronski

There has been a lot of talk of waves this fall. One arrived on campus on Sunday, Nov. 4 — a wave of compassion.

More than 550 Saint Joseph’s University students, staff and community members came together to participate in the Out of the Darkness Walk to support mental health awareness and suicide prevention. 

“The stigma around mental health needs to be changed, individual by individual, in order to make a greater wave in society,” said Catie Hoffman, one of the event’s organizers and Dean Leadership president. “We hope that as a program we are changing the conversation, student by student, and making a great wave on our campus.”

The success of the walk — organized by Alex Oleck ‘19, of Jackson, New Jersey, Gianna Gesualdo ‘19, of Goshen, New York, and Hoffman ‘19, of Alexandria,  Virginia — was no accident. Planning started last May, and included nearly 100 people, including the entire Dean’s Leadership program. 

With a active registration effort, a GoFundMe page, and a $1,500 grant from Quest for the Best, the event raised more than $10,000 for the SJU chapter of Active Minds, a Washington D.C.-based non-profit that advocates for young people related to mental health.

The 560 participants is a significant increase over recent years, when the event struggled to top 400. 

“While raising money is the goal of our event, it is not the purpose of it,” said Oleck. “Written on the backs of our shirts every year for the Out of the Darkness Walk is the simple phrase ‘Never Give Up.’ The purpose of this event is to provide hope for anyone who is suffering with their mental health and to make a statement that no one walks through life alone.” 

Any student who is struggling can seek free, personal or group counseling at the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). The center is open weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with appointments available until 5 p.m. The phone number is 610-660-1090.

“Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students, and almost 40 percent of college students experience a significant mental health issue,” said Hoffman.  Making the situation worse, she said, 2 out of 3 students with anxiety or depression do not seek treatment. 

“We, as the Dean’s leadership Program always say that although we want more and more individuals to come to the event every year, we would continue to hold the walk even if only one person were to show up,” said Hoffman. “If we impacted just one person by this event, then it is worth all the while.” 

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