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‘Out of the Darkness,’ UCSB Hosts Suicide Prevention Walk to Raise Awareness, Funds

Scores of UC Santa Barbara students and community members participated in a suicide prevention walk looping from Goleta Beach to the UCSB campus on Sunday morning.

The “Out of the Darkness” walk was put on by the nonprofit American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the UCSB Associated Students Office of the External Vice President of Local Affairs (EVPLA).

By Sunday morning, the event had raised approximately $4,200, said Casey Hebebrand, a UCSB student and member of the EVPLA office. End-of-day tallies were expected to reach the $5,000 goal, Hebebrand said Sunday evening. These funds are from both personal donations and those raised by various campus groups.

“I think it’s a real positive move forward,” Veronica Scarpelli, chaplain area director for AFSP, said of the turnout at the walk. “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among the college-aged, and overall, suicide is the leading cause of injury-related death.

“When we come to smaller communities, it seems to grip a little bit more, and they are very supportive. I think young minds are able to absorb the right education so they can push forward and really help prevent suicide.”

About 38,000 people die by suicide each year, according to AFSP, an organization that provides grants to scientists working to identify the underlying issues behind suicide.

“What people don’t understand is it’s not an event that creates that suicide — there’s a lot of variables that go into that one individual that would cause a suicide,” said Scarpelli. “My husband, for example, was diagnosed posthumously as having bipolar disorder, untreated. And most people who die from suicide go without a diagnosis and don’t have treatment.”

Given the recent tragic occurrences on campus, students came out to the walk to show their support.

“I live San Raf (one of the UCSB dorms) and I know that there’s a guy who committed suicide there,” said Andrea Garcia, a UCSB student who participated in the walk. “Although I didn’t know him personally, it did touch me and (I thought) ‘Wow. This is real.’”

“I haven’t lost anyone through suicide, but I know it’s a big issue,” added Janet Jimenez, another UCSB participant. “People tend to feel depressed, especially at a college where maybe they don’t fit in. Maybe this will help to raise awareness to ... tell them that there is support for them and they’re not alone.”

Scarpelli added that AFSP also puts on educational workshops about suicide designed for students of varying ages, and that the group talks to governmental officials on local, state and national levels to communicate the urgency of bringing attention to mental health. AFSP also sends trained volunteers to assist people who have lost loved ones to suicide.

“Sometimes they feel ostracized,” said Scarpelli. “We help them piece their story back together. Does it take away their loss? No. But it does help them understand.”

Scarpelli said the University of California’s involvement with its Interactive Screening program, a website for college students to anonymously seek out help, was one reason an “Out of the Darkness” walk came to the area. UCSB’s EVPLA Office also reached out to the AFSP. Free food was provided at the event by Isla Vista restaurants Crushcakes & Café, Sam’s to Go and Woodstock’s Pizza.

UCSB officials said they plan to host the “Out of the Darkness” walk annually, and another such walk will be held Nov. 2 at Santa Barbara’s Leadbetter Beach.

» Click here for free suicide prevention resources that are available 24 hours a day.

Noozhawk intern Kelsey Gripenstraw can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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