Students prepare to march for mental health

CNU gets ready for its first campus-specific Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk

In previous years, CNU students have participated in the Virginia Peninsula Out of the Darkness Walk and other walks in surrounding areas to advocate for suicide prevention in the community and beyond.

Now, on April 7, Christopher Newport will stand up against suicide as students lead CNU’s very first campus-specific Out of the Darkness Walk.

Out of the Darkness Walks are held across America in many different communities and campuses.

Their goal is to bring together those affected by suicide and mental illness to create an environment in which suicide loss survivors and supporters of the cause can walk together in strength, advocacy and love.

The event is being put on by CNU’s new chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the national organization behind the campus and community walks.

CNU’s chapter was established this February.

Montana Coward, a sophomore, organized the upcoming Out of the Darkness Walk with fellow students Alexi Manley, Chrissy Lowery and Emily Schoka.

“Many people have been affected by suicide,” said Coward. “Luckily, I haven’t personally [with] someone in my family, but I’ve known friends through high school [who have committed suicide]. It definitely means something, especially being a Captain and with what’s gone on [here] recently and in the past. As a student, it means a lot to me having people know there are other options and that there is support out there.”

Coward, Manley and Schoka, who are on CNU’s Women’s Soccer team, got lots of support for the club and the event from their coach, Dan Weiler.

“Upon arriving at CNU six years ago, it was always my intention to start something to bring awareness to suicide on campus,” Weiler said. “I shared this with the women’s soccer team and several of our players had an interest to form a student organization.”

Coward said Weiler has a passion for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and that he has been involved in the organization with his family, and wanted to bring it to CNU.

“I have participated in many Out of the Darkness walks and they are amazing,” he said.

After holding a screening of the documentary “It’s Real: College Students and Mental Health,” Weiler and the Women’s Soccer team noticed a need for an event in which the community could come together and speak out about the importance of mental health, especially on a college campus.

CNU’s Out of the Darkness Walk will clearly provide a platform for the necessary, yet often difficult, discussion about mental health and suicide.

Coward hopes that the event draws hundreds of attendees not just from CNU, but from the surrounding community as well, providing all kinds of support for those from different walks of life.

“CNU Counseling Center will be present at the walk,” said Weiler. “We want to make sure our students know that our counseling center is there to help too.”

Weiler said, “I am very proud of what this group of students has done to make this walk a reality. It’s our hope to make this an annual event and keep it growing across our campus and within our community. I hope students realize they are not alone if they are struggling with their mental health or thoughts of suicide.  We need to open this dialogue and band together to help one another.  We want to provide hope and healing to anyone in need.”

~Anna Dorl, Lifestyle Editor~

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