Article - Office of College Advancement

Suicide prevention walk to be held at Ohlone College

By Miriam G. Mazliach.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011—Reprinted from Tri-City Voice.

Every 16 minutes, someone in the US dies from suicide, the nation's 11th leading cause of death. Yet, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, over 90 percent of all people who commit suicide, suffer from a diagnosable and treatable psychiatric illness. So, in an effort to bring this once "taboo" subject out of the shadows, Ohlone College together with the Northern California Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), is hosting "Out-of-the-Darkness Campus Walk.

The event, in memory of Stewart Dawson, a much-loved member of the Ohlone Community College District family, will take place on April 19. Dawson had worked for Ohlone as a security guard in Campus Police Service during the past six years. He also attended Ohlone where he attained an Associate's degree in Administration of Justice. Tragically, he took his own life on December 28, 2010, attributable to depression. As a nature enthusiast, Stewart took amazing photos of animal life at Ohlone and was given the First Annual Environmental Awareness award by the Environmental Studies Department. He is survived by family and friends and is fondly remembered as funny, caring, smart, and an animal-lover.

To raise community awareness about depression and suicide prevention, the walk is open to all who wish to take part. Many of the walkers will be people who knew Dawson and will be there to honor his memory. Although there is no mandatory participation fee for the walk, this is a fundraiser for AFSP and donations are greatly appreciated.

Director of the Ohlone Student Health Center, Sally I. Bratton, RN, FNP, explains that the students and staff on the campus had a difficult time after Dawson's death and didn't know how to deal with the pain and grief. Coincidentally, while attending a conference in San Francisco, Bratton made the acquaintance of Shirley Kaminsky, RN, who was affiliated with the AFSP. Kaminsky offered to come to Ohlone to do a support group on campus and help with the grieving process. Further talks led to holding the Out-of-the Darkness Campus Walk.

"The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is an amazing group of people, primarily volunteers," says Bratton. "Most have lost family members or partners to suicide. It's a passion for them [to help others]."

Jennifer Murcia, a volunteer with AFSP adds, "The reason I joined the organization is because they champion a cause that is very dear to me. They seek to create awareness, fund research, and educate the community on suicide and reach out to people with mental illness. Sadly, mental illness and suicide are two issues I've personally dealt with throughout my life. Through my work with the organization, I have learned to heal and come to terms with my past."

The walk event schedule is as follows:

  • 11 a.m. - Registration
  • 11:45 a.m. - Opening Ceremony
  • 12 p.m.-1 p.m. - Walk around circumference of Ohlone College Campus
  • 1 p.m.-1:15 p.m. - Closing Ceremony
  • 1:15 p.m. - 2 p.m. - Refreshments

Participants are also asked to bring a pair of gently used shoes, symbolizing those they have lost to suicide, to be donated to a local shelter. There will also be a "memory board" to sign in remembrance. All proceeds collected will be used to support AFSP's education and awareness programs as well as to fund research.

Many students are seen at the college's Health Center for a variety of concerns. However, Bratton explains that she hopes some of the funds derived from the walk will also help the Ohlone Health Center partner with AFSP to better serve the needs of the students. Ohlone's National College Health Assessment Survey of March 2010 indicated some startling facts. It showed that many students had been touched by depression; 21 percent had contemplated suicide, while 2.3 percent of Ohlone students had attempted suicide.

"In particular, we are looking at an Interactive Screening Program through AFSP for Ohlone which will provide a direct screening tool for our campus," says Bratton. The program would involve a confidential online survey, to be sent to a select group of students, and filled out at home. Based on a determination of risk factors for suicide, a Health Center staff member would then follow up where needed.

Show your support of Ohlone College and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention by joining community members at the "Out-of-the-Darkness Campus Walk." Shed light on this serious issue, begin the healing process and be part of the solution.

During the event, parking fees will not be enforced in lots L, M, N, O, & P, where participants are asked to park. Donations to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are gladly accepted but not required for participation in the walk.

  • "Out-of-the-Darkness Campus Walk"
  • Tuesday, April 19
  • 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
  • Ohlone College
    43600 Mission Boulevard, Fremont
    (510) 659-6258
  • www.campuswalks.org

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