Out of the Darkness Walk: “We are Stronger Together”

Moderators Lucianne Ryan (left) & Jarred Bierbrauer (right) appear on screen as the hosts of the annual OSU AFSP event. The Oregon State University Out of the Darkness event raises money for suicide prevention.

For three years Oregon State University has hosted the Out of the Darkness Walk in partnership with the OSU Counseling and Psychological Services and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, representing a message of unity against the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health.

This year’s OOTD walk went virtual with the traditional bead ceremony, guest speakers and resource fair for students. The event was live-streamed at noon on Apr. 17, with Lucciane Hope as host and Jared Bierbrauer as co-host. 

The event began with an overview of AFSP fundraising goals. As of Apr. 17, the initiative raised $8,830 of its $10,000 goal, but donations will continue to be accepted until June. 

According to Bierbrauer, half of the fundraiser’s proceeds will return to OSU as suicide prevention services, which will include suicide prevention training and education within the OSU community. 

The event’s first guest speaker was Taylor Ricci, an OSU alumna who graduated in 2018 and served as a National Collegiate Athletic Association gymnast for OSU. Ricci shared how the loss of her friend to suicide, who was also on the gymnastics team, impacted her. 

Along with fellow OSU athlete Nathan Braaten, Ricci formed The Dam Worth It Company, which aims to address the stigma around mental health and prioritize student mental health services. 

Following Ricci’s story was the honor bead ceremony. Before COVID-19, participants would physically pick from nine colored beads that symbolized specific connections to suicide and then raise their bead during the ceremony in a show of solidarity. For this year’s event, each guest speaker virtually represented a colored bead and its link to suicide. 

As each speaker shared their story, viewers reacted in the chat with colored hearts corresponding to the bead color they felt most connected to. 

Green represented a personal struggle, white represented the loss of a child and red was for the loss of a spouse or partner. Silver symbolized the loss of a first responder or military member. Gold represented the loss of a parent, orange was the loss of a sibling and purple was the loss of a relative or friend. Teal represented the struggles of a loved one with suicide and blue represented the support for suicide prevention. 

After the honor bead ceremony, guest speaker Ian Kellems, the director of CAPS, shared plans to introduce a non-law enforcement crisis response team to help during mental health crisises, which he said he hopes to have ready by fall of 2021.

Kellems also outlined resources and services that CAPS offers students, such as a 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on-call clinic that offers counseling for students in crisis and other suicide risk reduction resources. CAPS also collaborates with a 24/7 service called ProtoCall to offer remote crisis intervention. 

The event’s final guest speaker was Renée Roman Nose, a member of the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma as well as an artist, writer and poet who was nominated for the Oregon Book of the Year award in 2017. 

“We are stronger together, we are better together, we can stand alone, but we can thrive together,” Nose said during the event.

We truly show our shared humanity and compassion, Nose added, when we reach out to one another in times of strife; when we are going through heartbreaking moments. 

“No one walks alone,” Nose said. “No one comes into the world alone. Whether we feel it or not, we are surrounded by those who see us.”