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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Out of the Darkness walk brings light to mental health awareness

Students gather on Sweeney Field to listen to speakers talk about the importance of discussing mental health. PHOTO: MADELINE WILLIAMS ’26/THE HAWK

About 200 students gathered on Sweeney Field for the annual Out of the Darkness Walk on Nov. 7 to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health.

Hosted by the Dean’s Leadership Program (DLP), the walk aims to break the stigma of mental health and encourage students to speak out about their experiences, according to Casey Hoffamn ’23, co-chair of the event.

“I just generally think mental health awareness and suicide are not easy topics,” Hoffman said.  “They’re things that people shy away from, and we’re basically here to bring it to light, bring it out of the darkness.” 

Paige Martin ’25 spoke out about her own experiences with mental health as well as her mother’s recent suicide in a speech she read to attendees of the walk. In her speech, Martin said that a doctor told her, “You either sink, or you swim. But you have to want to swim, and you have to really try.” Martin said she is grateful she chose to swim. 

“Please don’t go,” Martin said in her speech. “Your life is so incredibly valuable. It doesn’t matter what you have done or who you are. There’s always room for a second or third or fourth or tenth or twentieth chance in life. I gave myself another chance, and it was the best decision I ever made. My mom didn’t give herself that same grace, and I now live in more pain than I could ever have imagined.” 

Co-chair Nicoletta Viscione ’24 said, as a psychology major, she is a strong advocate for mental health awareness and hoped that the annual event allows students to have their voices and experiences heard.

“A lot of people in my life have struggled with anxiety and depression,” Viscione said. “I myself have very bad anxiety, and just having this event organized with people around you that are so uplifting and will encourage you to be your best on the daily, and having that voice for other people is something that’s very important to me.”

Hoffman and Viscione said donations from sponsors and the sale of tickets for the walk helped them raise $7,892 for Active Minds, a nonprofit organization that supports mental health awareness and education for young adults.

According to data from Active Minds, 39% of students in college experience a significant mental health issue, and 67% of people between the ages of 18 and 24 who have anxiety or depression don’t seek treatment.

Nick Farrell ’24, another speaker at the event, said it was important to show that there is a community of people who will physically and emotionally be present for those who need it.

“[Today] we are walking the walk as opposed to just talking the talk,” Farrell said. “we’re doing both.” 

Cheryl McConnell, Ph.D., interim university president, also spoke at the event and said it is important for students to have access to mental health resources.

“If you scratch the surface, everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about,” McConnell said.

George Clifford ’24 said he attended the event because he cares about the issues that were raised, and that this event shows that students and the university cares for “the whole person.” 

“A lot of kids have got homework or probably want to watch football, but instead they’re out here showing support for each other,” Clifford said. “So I think it’s really great.” 

The walk is a way for students to know that they can rely on others regarding mental health, especially since many college-aged students face the same struggles, said Viscione.

“Just having your voice heard and knowing that you are not alone and finding those people who will hear you and see you is so important, especially at such a crucial time period in our lives,” Viscione said.“You want to know that there’s people who love you and are there for you and see you.” 

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Savannah Warner
Savannah Warner, Assistant News Editor
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