By Matthew A. Harris
This wasn’t your average Tuesday night here on the campus of Springfield College. What was a sunny day, turned into pouring rain by 5 p.m. Mother Nature was hinting at the significance of what would be taking place in Blake Arena nearly two hours later.
At 6:45 p.m., the rain picked up and poured down harder than it had all spring. The sky was dark, the campus lit by the track and field lights as well as the ones in front of Blake Arena, adjacent to the tennis courts. It felt like the night was going to be an emotional one, but there was still a sign of hope for better days.
As the clock struck closer to 7 p.m., more and more students and faculty members started to flood the arena for the fifth annual “Out of the Darkness Walk,” an event put on by the Counseling Center to spread awareness of suicide prevention.
“We are grateful that the Springfield College campus community will be raising mental health awareness by educating individuals. We hope others on campus will join members of the women’s lacrosse and field hockey teams… to take action against stigma and to encourage all to speak out on this topic,” said Women’s Lacrosse Head Coach Kristen Mullady. “I am so appreciative of the support and resources on the Springfield College campus to help increase mental health awareness.”
The awareness struck right as individuals walked in. Each person was greeted with a blue bead necklace, and a white sticky tag on which participants wrote a name for someone they have lost to suicide. As the number of attendants increased, the overall volume of the room began to simmer. Once everyone was settled in, the group of 125 people was asked to walk silently two times around the upper track within the arena. The quietness and attentiveness of the audience spoke great volumes; there was a kinetic energy like no other. Everyone who was there was supporting the greater cause of suicide prevention and awareness.
“I’m glad the college has been able to sponsor this event for the last five years. Every year the turnout seems to get bigger and I’m proud of that,” said Springfield College counselor Gary Enright. “We can’t do enough to talk about the isolation that some people feel and the tough place that they can get to, but the message for me is that there are people around that care and would want to help them.”
There were eight stations set up with different color beads to symbolize the type of loss one may have endured. White stood for the loss of a child; red for the loss of a spouse or partner; gold for the loss of a parent; orange for the loss of a sibling; purple for the loss of a relative or friend; silver for the loss of a first responder/member of the military; teal for a friend or family member who has struggled or attempted; and green for a personal struggle or attempt.
The night was about honoring everyone who has been affected by suicide, and to raise awareness on the topic in order to break the stigma attached to this real world issue.
The event honored one of our own, Kristina Krull, a student-athlete who graduated in 2016 and died by suicide last summer. “Kristina was a remarkable and talented young woman. She is truly missed by those who knew her. She was a great friend and a great teammate. Though she is no longer with us, I believe that through her story, someone may find the strength to seek the help they need,” said Women’s Field Hockey Head Coach Melissa Sharpe.
Kristina’s teammates showed their support and are now on a mission to spread awareness in her name. “Mental health is something that is brushed to the side in today’s society. With the loss of my former teammate, Kristina, it has brought a whole new importance to mental health in my life. She was one of the hardest working people I had ever known and never gave up,” said Emmalie Drake. “The Out of the Darkness Walk will help bring awareness to the prevalence of suicide in our society and let those struggling know that there are people that support them out there.”
The Out of the Darkness Walk, spread powerful messages by the field hockey and lacrosse teams in support and remembrance of their dear friend and teammate, but also gave encouraging words of wisdom to help someone who may be going through this struggle themselves, or knows someone who is struggling. Statements were made such as:
- “It is okay not to be okay.”
- “Everyone you know is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so always remain kind.”
- “Always check in on your friends: your strong friends, your creative friends, your quiet friends.”
- “Always extend a hand and reach out.”
Talking about the stigma is the only way to effectively spread awareness and to change the outlook on the topic that has been kept in the dark for far too long.
Springfield College is planning on hosting its sixth annual Out of the Darkness Walk next year with their sights on spreading even more awareness on suicide prevention.
If you or someone you know is struggling, there are resources to help:
Springfield College Counseling Center: (413) 748-3345
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
For more information on suicide prevention, visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Photo courtesy of: Sam Leventhal