Evangeline Sanders was only in her second semester of college when she decided to take part in Clemson University’s 2019 Out of the Darkness Walk.
Admittedly, she didn’t know how many people would take part in the event. After all, the conversation surrounding suicide and some of the stigmas associated with it is never an easy one.
Fast forward one year and it’s easy to see why she participated.
“It was really eye opening to see how many people have been affected by this personally or have had loved ones die from suicide,” she said. “There are many people passionately trying to raise awareness of these issues.”
Sanders is one of them.
A psychology and Spanish double major, she is among six students enrolled this semester in a creative inquiry associated with Tigers Together — Clemson’s suicide prevention initiative. The group focuses on programmatic and research activities to develop, deliver and evaluate educational campaigns on Clemson’s campus.
“Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds,” said Sanders, a sophomore who aspires for a career in mental health counseling. “It’s an issue college students need to be aware of.”
That awareness is taking shape in the form of Clemson’s fifth annual Out of the Darkness Walk, set for Saturday, March 7 at Tillman Hall. The event begins with registration at 11 a.m., followed by a presentation inside Memorial Auditorium. The approximate one-mile walk follows at 1 p.m. and weaves its way through campus before finishing at Carillon Garden.
Last year, the walk featured more than 200 participants and raised $16,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Fundraising efforts have already begun for this year’s event and include community contributions, such as the upcoming proceeds night on Feb. 18 in which 33 percent of profits from 4-8 p.m. at Chipotle on College Avenue will go toward supporting the AFSP.
“There is no fee to participate in the walk,” said Sanders, who serves as a counselor for the national crisis text line. “Each participant can register and set a fundraising goal for themselves or create a team and establish a goal. A lot of Clemson students have been impacted by suicide, directly or indirectly. We want to provide a place for them to come together with others who have been through similar struggles and experiences.”
Kristi Bussell, who oversees student advocacy on campus for suicide prevention, has been with Tigers Together for 2 ½ years. Along with professors Martie Thompson and Heidi Zinzow, she is one of the creative inquiry instructors that meets each Monday in Brackett Hall.
Bussell is excited for this year’s event.
“This is the fifth walk at Clemson, but my third,” she said. “From my perspective, both the campus and community have been very receptive of this event. We had walkers travel from out of town last year just to attend. The students do a phenomenal job of putting it together each and every year.”
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