The Psychology Club at Fairfield University emphasizes the message “you are meant to be here and you are so incredibly loved” for those battling with suicidal thoughts.
Students, staff, volunteers and members of the Fairfield Community came together and echoed this sentiment the morning of Sunday, April 24, when Fairfield University’s Psychology Club partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to host the annual Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention on campus.
The course was roughly one and a half miles long and looped around Fairfield’s campus, starting and ending at the Stag statue.
Co-President of the Psychology Club Lauren Adams ‘23 stated that “This is an event for those who have lost someone to suicide, those who struggle with suicidal thoughts or ideations, or those who have family or friends who struggle with suicide.”
Adams was pleased with the turnout of the event. She stated that just under 100 individuals registered for the event, and that even more people arrived on the day of the walk to show their support.
This is the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that the club has been able to host the event in person, shared Treasurer of the Psychology Club Allie Mele ‘23. She further commented on the importance of the event being hosted in person, as opposed to being held virtually in recent years.
“It’s really exciting that everyone’s physically here to walk,” Mele said.
“The power of physically walking together is really important, then carrying that message on after the event,” she continued.
The significance of student support was also brought up, and how important it is that the University’s community gathers in support for good causes.
“I’m so excited to see everyone coming out to support such an awesome cause on campus,” added Faith Waldron ‘23.“It’s so awesome to see our school coming together for a really good cause. We don’t do this nearly enough,” she said.
Sophomore Kiersten Nicolosi followed Waldron’s comment by talking about the strength and unity of the Fairfield community.
“After losing a parent to suicide, it’s awesome to see the community come together and support everyone in such a great way and see the sense of unity in this community,” she said.
In addition to the walk around campus, there were tables set up with different activities, and an assortment of honorary beads, each color representing a different connection to suicide and mental illness.
“These beads and these courageous people represent our dedication and strength as a community,” said Adams in her speech at the event.
She continued, “The beads come in many colors, honoring the diversity of the cause.” Each color represents a different way suicide or mental illness has affected one’s life.
Other activities included a face painting station where students could get the suicide prevention ribbon painted on their face, as well as a “Hope Lives Here” poster that students could sign and write positive messages to show support to those struggling with suicide.
There was also a table with t-shirts for those who fundraised in support of the cause, free wrist-bands and a table with a representative from the AFSP, who was able to offer more information on the organization.
Aside from the prior fundraising efforts by participants, there was also a raffle included at the event to raise additional funds for the cause. Adams announced that the event raised nearly $10,000 in total, doubling the Psychology Club’s initial goal.
The event cultivated an uplifting feel, meant as a way to bring light to a difficult topic. Co-President of the Psychology Club, Logan Mascia ‘22 described it as a “great event.”
“We always have a ton of fun and engagement, and we raise a lot of money and awareness [for suicide prevention],” he said.
Additionally, this event featured guest speakers Jim and Kristen Kuczo, members of the Fairfield community, who recently lost their son Kevin Kuczo to suicide.
The guest speakers encouraged more conversation surrounding mental illness and depression in order to prevent suicide. They tell Kevin’s story to educate others on depression and suicide through their foundation, Kevin’s Afterglow, established after their son’s passing.
Jim Kuczo talked about the motivation behind the organization, which is “to get people to talk.” He continued that its “mission is to teach kids kindness, empathy, and the ability to listen to others.”
Kristen Kuczo touched upon another role of their organization, which is to “address the pediatric mental health crisis taking place.”
“You can defeat this, it’s not over, please talk to someone, depression is beatable. It’s okay to not be okay,” she said.
“We want you to choose love,” added Jim Kuczo, “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
Jim ended his speech by saying, “You can make a difference in someone’s life,” and urging participants to spread Kevin’s message: “to teach kids kindness, empathy, and the ability to listen to others…, give to others, educate parents and children on mental health, help address the pediatric mental health crisis, and get people to talk.”
After their speech, Genuine Skill Salcedo ‘23 sang “Head Above Water,” by Avril Lavigne, a moving song focusing on continuing to fight for one’s life.
Adams reiterated the importance of the event and spreading the message long after it ended.
“The most important part of this is to spread the message long after this event, everyday going forward. Just because we walk doesn’t mean that it ends here,” she said. “We need to keep spreading the message and keep walking for each other and ourselves.”