WNEU Students Focus Efforts on Mental Illness, Suicide Prevention

SPRINGFIELD — Western New England University (WNEU) students will host their second annual Out of the Darkness Walk for suicide prevention on Saturday, April 30 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting at the university’s Commonwealth Lawn. All WNEU and Springfield community members are welcome, including pets.

Students were also recently approved to start a campus chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The NAMI campus chapters work to end the stigma that makes it difficult for students to talk about mental health and get the help they need. The NAMI clubs hold creative meetings, educational awareness events, and offer programs through partnerships with NAMI’s state and national organizations.

Out of the Darkness Walks are the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s signature student fund-raising series, designed to engage young adults in the fight to prevent suicide, the second-leading cause of death among all people ages 18-24.

“By engaging students and the community in the Out of the Darkness Walk, we raise awareness for suicide-prevention efforts, help fund research and educational programming, and help dispel the stigma on mental health,” said pharmacy major Kristy Nguyen. To register for the walk online or to donate, click here.

Balancing all the changes that happen in college can be stressful and challenging. Those challenges are even more difficult for the one in five students who also face a mental-health condition. Nearly three-quarters of mental-health conditions emerge by age 24, so many college students are facing these struggles for the first time, and may not know where to go for support.

NAMI also offers support groups and teaches friends and family of those afflicted with mental illnesses how to help their loved ones.

“I thought this chapter was important to start because I know so many people who suffer from mental illnesses, and a few of my friends and I have also lost people to suicide,” said junior Natasha Mercado-Santana, the new president of the campus chapter of NAMI. “Even if you don’t have a diagnosed mental illness, it is still important to get support, especially in college, where challenging classes, new social situations, and being away from home for the first time can all be very stressful. People don’t get help because they either don’t know where or how to get it, or because they don’t want to admit they need it. We’re trying to eliminate that stigma and guide students to the resources they need.”

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