URI to hold Out of the Darkness 5K April 20 to raise mental health awareness

A note to readers: The following article discusses suicide.

UPDATE (4/19): Please note that due to rain in Saturday’s forecast, this event is being moved indoors to Mackal Field House.

KINGSTON, R.I. —April 16, 2024—In advance of National Mental Health Awareness Month, the University of Rhode Island will hold an Out of the Darkness 5K walk to raise awareness and funds for suicide prevention. The event will be held Saturday, April 20, on the Kingston Campus. Registration opens at 9 a.m. with the walk beginning at 10 a.m.

Peyton Cahill, a URI junior studying neuroscience, first approached URI Health Services/Health Promotion about holding an Out of the Darkness Campus Walk in the fall after participating in and volunteering at several walks in northern Rhode Island. Cahill is the president of the University’s chapter of Active Minds, which aims to raise awareness of mental health and help people better recognize when a friend or loved one is struggling.

“Most people, when they’re struggling, will first go to a friend or a peer—someone they know who’s their own age rather than seek out a professional—and that is an important first step,” said Cahill. “Our goal, with Active Minds and with this walk, is to raise awareness. We want people to know that it is OK to reach out if they are struggling. And we also want friends and loved ones to know how to support one another and open the lines of communication to make it easier to ask for help.”

Out of the Darkness Campus Walks are the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention‘s signature student fundraising series, designed to engage youth and young adults in the fight to prevent suicide, a leading cause of death among young people today. Funds raised will go to support continued programming and education efforts on college campuses.

“It’s our hope that together we can continue to shift the conversation surrounding suicide and challenge the stigma toward talking about mental health struggles in general,” said Arielle Sherman, URI alcohol and substance prevention services specialist, who along with Cahill and Jessica Greene, assistant director of health promotion and wellness at URI, helped to spearhead the walk. “This is such an important cause,” added Sherman. “Showing up for one another and demonstrating the care and support that is in our community is important.”

According to Sherman and Greene in addition to informational tables around the Quad, two rooms in Ranger Hall will be reserved for those who would like a quiet place to retreat—to take part in relaxation activities, arts and crafts, or to find a safe space to share with a counselor. Part of the walk will also include the exchanging of beads, which help to signify how participants are uniquely connected to the topic of anxiety, mental health, or suicide and to show support.

There is no cost to register for the walk and participants are not required to raise funds to take part. Walkers will follow the same route as the annual Be 5K Walk/Run for Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention, which is held each fall to benefit the Heather Fund established at the URI Counseling Center.

“People can register in advance or the morning of the walk,” said Greene. “They do not have to fundraise and they can walk as much of the course or as little as they want. This is really about creating another chance for us to come together as a community to raise awareness and show support for one another.”

To register for the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk, visit: www.afsp.org/URI.

The 988 Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 988 or go to 988lifeline.org. The URI Counseling Center offers free, confidential mental health and well-being support to URI students. More information is available at uri.edu/counseling/ or by calling 401-874-2288. The University also provides 24-hour support via Telus Health. For URI faculty and staff, free, confidential assistance is available through the Employee Assistance Program. URI’s Couple and Family Therapy Clinic and the Psychological Consultation Center, also provide mental health services.