Students walk for suicide prevention

Students came together on Sunday afternoon to participate in UC Berkeley’s annual Suicide Prevention Walk through campus. The walk was organized by the student group You Mean More.
Kay Yang/Staff
Students came together on Sunday afternoon to participate in UC Berkeley’s annual Suicide Prevention Walk through campus. The walk was organized by the student group You Mean More.

Around 500 UC Berkeley students walked through campus Sunday afternoon as part of an annual suicide prevention walk.

The UC Berkeley Suicide Prevention Walk, organized by You Mean More — a campus suicide-prevention group — in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, brought together counselors, UCPD officers, student groups and volunteers. The walk featured students who had attempted suicide or lived through depression in the past who shared their testimony.

“The response from students and other groups has been amazing,” said fifth-year senior Shannan McClain, a co-founder of You Mean More and co-chair of the event. “Normally when you hand out fliers, students are immune, but when you say, ‘interested in a suicide prevention walk?’, they do double-takes.”

Prior to the walk, which started at Sather Gate and went through campus and back down Bancroft Way, participants strolled through Sproul Plaza and engaged in various encouraging activities, such as making stress balls and creating a mural of sticky notes with the theme “What Keeps You Going.”

McClain and UC Berkeley junior Sanjala Chitnis founded You Mean More last year to break the silence about suicide on campus after dealing with family members and friends who personally suffered from issues related to depression and suicide.

“This is a school with some of the brightest students in the world,” Chitnis said. “UC Berkeley is supposed to put out leaders to help our future, and if this is the kind of environment surrounding mental health, it’s inadequate.”

The event raised more than $30,000 for the AFSP through donations and sponsors to be divided equally among the national chapter and the local San Francisco branch. The UC Berkeley walk raised more than any other AFSP-organized campus walk, according to Chitnis.

The money also contributes to efforts of research, education and advocacy, and McClain, a board member of the AFSP, will travel this week to Sacramento to discuss bolstering the prominence of mental health in health insurance plans with state legislatures.

“Going to Cal as a student, even though you’re young, you have the power to make an impact,” McClain said.

UC Berkeley junior Melissa Colon walked in the event to support her younger sister, who is battling depression, and to learn more about the resources available. Colon hopes walking in the event will further spread awareness and communicate to those suffering that there is a dedicated support system for them.

“Maybe they feel like no one is there to support them or nobody understands,” Colon said. “I feel like these events, even though maybe they don’t see it as this, are a step towards letting people know you’re not alone. Regardless of what you’re going through, you’re not alone.”

Virgie Hoban covers research and ideas. Contact her at [email protected]