H3 walk unites campus community for suicide prevention
H3 walk unites campus community for suicide preventionPublished 05/19/2014
More than $7,000 will go to suicide prevention work at the University of Washington thanks to the more than 300 participants who gathered at Red Square for the Husky Help and Hope (H3) suicide prevention walk on May 18. Organized jointly by Huskies for Suicide Prevention Awareness (HSPA) and Forefront, all funds raised from the walk will benefit H3’s efforts to increase suicide awareness and prevention efforts on campus.
At the beginning of the walk, participants received wrist ribbons to demonstrate how suicide has affected their lives. For example, a yellow ribbon went to someone who lost a friend and green signified that a participant had lost a sibling to suicide. This way, participants could identify with others who had experienced a similar loss.
“Many of you are here because of a personal connection to suicide,” said HSPA co-president Juliana Borges to the participants, “but my guess and hope is that an equal amount of you are here without a connection.” Borges stressed that everyone – whether directly affected by suicide or not – needs to work together in order for suicide prevention methods to become more well-known and available.
The event also featured several speakers, including UW Psychiatry professor Michael McDonell and former UW student Ricky Garcia. Both gave emotional accounts of their experiences with suicide. McDonnell talked of his grief after a close friend took his own life, while Garcia shared his own struggle and eventual triumph over mental illness and substance abuse.
“Prevention training saves lives – it saved mine,” said Garcia, who wore a light blue ribbon to symbolize his personal encounter with suicide. He reported that after attempting suicide multiple times, he has been mentally stable and clean and sober for the past 21 months after receiving treatment and critical support from his family.
Following the speeches, the participants were greeted by sun and blue skies as they completed a three-mile walk around the UW campus. Some participants wore clothing to commemorate the life of a loved one lost through suicide. Others joined the walk as the main group made its way around campus.
“I think it went very smoothly,” said HSPA co-president Beau Castillo after the walk. Castillo and Borges mentioned that the first walk two years ago had around 120 participants while last year’s walk had around 200 participants. With an estimated 300 participants this year, they hope interest in the event continues to grow.
H3 Project Director Lauren Davis was optimistic about the new possibilities for suicide prevention efforts through the event’s robust fundraising effort.
“[UW and Forefront] recently received a federal grant, and we have a lot of ideas to better support students in distress – but the grant funding is inadequate to cover all the things we feel are necessary,” said Davis. “So the funds raised today will be critical for things like providing advanced clinical training for mental health staff on campus, as well as implementing behavioral health screening to identify students at risk and connect them to care.” — By Alexander Tran