On Sunday, April 16, Fairfield University’s Psychology Club hosted its annual Out of the Darkness Walk in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP) to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health. Students, parents and friends met at the Stag statue around 11 a.m. to walk around the various tables set up to help raise awareness for mental health and then listened to three speakers before embarking on the one-mile loop around campus.
The event was not limited to those who have a direct connection to suicide, but to anyone who wanted to support the cause. There was a table of beads with a color guide that ranged meanings from a personal struggle with mental health to the loss of a partner to suicide to supporting a friend or the cause itself.
Members of the club were able to volunteer and participate in the walk. In addition, shirts were dispersed for volunteers and tables with free stickers and bracelets for those students participating in the event.
Sophomore Bridget Clark was a volunteer for an event at the raffle table and commented on the reason behind joining the event. “I joined the walk because I’m really passionate about mental health awareness and destigmatizing it.”
At the same table as Clark was volunteer Lexi Currivan ‘25. “I just think this is a great event to bring everyone together and help raise awareness to prevent suicide,” she commented.
The president of the Psychology Club, Lauren Adams ‘23, expressed her excitement about the event.
“I am so excited about today, last year was extremely successful and I think this year will be ten times more successful. We have double the amount of people registered to walk with us.”
Last year, the event raised $10,000 and this edition had over $15,000 raised for ASFP.
“We’ve raised over $15,000 so we’ve met our goal which is amazing and I am so thankful,” continued Adams. This amount was from funds collected before the event. After the event, the donations from the day were added to make the total amount $18,000.
The brand Here For You set up a pop-up shop where they were selling sweatshirts and sweatpants with their brand’s name on them, donating 20% of profits to ASFP. Members of the Psychology Honors Society Psi Chi were running a table with small bags that had encouraging stickers in them along with a stress ball.
Senior Marie Belmanian, who is also the Co-President of Psi Chi, spoke about how excited she was to see the turnout at the event. “I’m really excited to be here today; it means a lot that the Psychology Club put this together and it is really just such a great initiative to have on campus.”
Fundraising and Events Manager of the Psychology Club, Clare Mcginnes ‘25, commented on how glad she was to see that all of their work had finally come together.
“This whole process was a lot of work, but seeing it all put together shows how worth it it is. It makes me so happy to look around and see everyone smiling and getting involved while spreading the message around campus,” she said. “This is one of my favorite events and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Founder of Here For You, Ellie Hanley, was one of the three speakers before the event. She told her story about losing her uncle to suicide and how she battled depression throughout college.
“I have a lot of anxiety when I’m flying on planes, in regard to crashing or losing oxygen. But I got on a plane one day and I suddenly didn’t care if I crashed,” Hanley commented while talking about how her experience with depression and connection to her uncle inspired her to open a business and pursue her passion.
Jim Kuczo was the second speaker and shared with the crowd the story of his son Kevin, who took his life in 2021. Kuczo and his wife Kristin founded Kevin’s Afterglow in his memory to raise awareness of suicide prevention through education in schools by addressing the mental health crisis in today’s youth. He emphasized the lack of mental health professionals in his talk.
“For every 1,800 people struggling with their mental health, there is only one psychiatrist available. That number should be around 40.” He concluded by encouraging students to turn to the person next to them and say ‘love you man.’”
The final speaker was Kiersten Nicolosi ‘24, who spoke about losing her dad to suicide a few years ago.
“In the last week of my first year at college, my life changed forever. I was working on a final project and I got a call from my uncle saying he was waiting in the back of my residence hall. So, I went out and I talked to him and I received the worst news an 18-year-old could ever hear.”
Nicolosi continued telling her story by saying “He told me my dad passed away and when I asked how, he reluctantly told me he had taken his own life.” She reiterated that it was no one’s fault that her dad lost his fight and that he was a good man who was an encouraging coach and father who sent daily texts of affirmation and was expressive and emotional.
Secretary of the Psychology Club Allie Mele ‘23 was given the opportunity to be the person who started the walk around campus due to her raising the most amount of money.
Members of the executive board of the Psychology Club expressed their disappointment toward Fairifield’s faculty and administration for their lack of appearance and even comments.
Adams was hopeful that they would have more faculty show up and support them. At the event, she stated, “That was the battle that we’ve been dealing with, a lot of students have felt a lack of support from staff and faculty at Fairfield, and we did reach out to pretty much every department, so we are hopeful that some of them are coming!”
Two faculty members were present at the event. Professor Jessica Karanian, Ph.D. and Jeanne Peloso, Ph.D., both of whom are within the Psychology department. Dr. Karanian is the moderator of the Psychology Club, and Dr. Peloso was photographing the event.
Mele commented on the walk. “This is such a great and important cause. Huge shout out to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for helping us organize this. Obviously, all of our proceeds go toward their cause and I was so excited to wake up this morning and see that we reached our goal of $15,000! She finished, “It’s just so amazing to see more people come out!”