STEP Up walk supports mental health
April 14, 2016
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Ohlone students and staff took part in the sixth annual Out of the Darkness Walk at the Newark campus on Wednesday.
The walk aims to raise funds and awareness for mental health treatment and suicide prevention. The annual event is organized by STEP Up Ohlone and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and is part of a series of health center events this week.
The annual walk began “six years ago after the suicide of (campus safety) officer Stewart Dawson sent the whole campus into a crisis of shock and sadness,” said Rosemary O’Neill, coordina
tor of personal counseling and life coaching services. “We partnered with AFSP and have been doing this walk ever since, which brings awareness to people that there’s help available, that no one has to feel alone, and prevents the taking of life by suicide.”
Wednesday’s walk was done on a trail that surrounds the Newark campus. All proceeds from donations and fundraising go toward suicide-prevention initiatives and mental health counseling.
The event followed Tuesday’s Day of Dialogue, which was held in the Newark center lobby. The event, which lasted from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., is done annually to “promote awareness of mental health and break the stigma from people getting help for their mental issues,” O’Neill said.
The Day of Dialogue also was organized by STEP Up Ohlone. This year, the group launched a new Show Your Love Campaign to promote healthy lifestyles for men and women. Its program also included live depression screenings for students, social outreach through a weeklong “Text, Talk, Act” initiative, and fun activities like bingo.
As part of their campaign, STEP Up representatives “dressed up as different vegetables with catchphrases such as ‘I Care-ott about You,’ ‘Let-tuce Talk’ and ‘You’re the Apple of my Eye’ to ease people into the atmosphere and open up,” health promotion specialist Luwissa Wong said.
“More people come in to talk about their problems after every Day of Dialogue, which is the goal of events like these, to get people to reach out,” O’Neill said.
“We know for a fact that when we talk, it releases our stress. So people come to me for that. It’s completely confidential and I’m removed from their social circle, so it becomes a safe space for them to express themselves.”
Students pay a $19 student health fee, which entitles them to come to either the Newark or Fremont health centers. The Newark office is in the lobby, and the Fremont office is on the third floor of Building 7.