Students Fight Mental Health Stigma
Stride-A-Thon At BU Fosters Suicide Awareness
Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Last Saturday, April 28, Strides Against Stigma, a “stride-a-thon,” took place at Boston University. The event’s slogan, ‘Taking Steps to End the Stigma of Depression,” embodies their goal to raise awareness of depression and mental disorders in the college community. Hosted by Families for Depression Awareness, the event challenged each team of participants to stride two million steps in the aid against depression. Families for Depression Awareness is a national non profit organization composed of those who have lost a family member due to suicide as a result of depression. The event has currently raised 60 percent of their $50,000 goal.
Stigma, defined as a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person, has a monumental effect on suicides. Strides Against Stigma aims to erase the stigma about depression. As stated on the event’s webpage: “Depression affects one in every eight teenagers, and 20 million adults in the U.S. every year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people, and depression is the leading cause of suicide.” On average, a person commits suicide every 15 minutes in the United States. One in 12 college students actually have a suicide plan laid out.
Michael Gannon, the student who passed away this Saturday, has been confirmed to have taken his own life. A Boston University graduate student and Ph.D. candidate took her life this past month. In the past weeks, college students of Boston have particularly felt the strong effects of the tragedy of suicide, representative of how prominent the issue is across the nation. Strides Against Stigma desires to assure college students that depression is treatable, accepted, and nothing to be ashamed of. In today’s high stakes environment, college students face pressures from all aspects of life: academic, social, emotional, and physical. Families for Depression Awareness publicize the need to discuss these pressures and seek professional help when necessary.
Participants at Saturday’s event wore pedometers as they walked the track at BU’s Nickerson Field. Each team member was encouraged to set his or her stride goal at 8,000 steps, roughly the equivalent of a four-mile walk. Educational activities, interactive games, and special performances entertained the audience and those walking. First Lady of Massachusetts Diane Patrick was in attendance to receive a Distinguished Service in Mental Health Advocacy Award. Honorary committee members included Attorney General Martha Coakley, Greg Stiemsma of the Boston Celtics, and journalist Jane Pauley. All money raised from Strides Against Stigma went toward Families for Depression Awareness’ own programs. Donations are still being accepted via the event’s website, stridesagainststigma.org.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students in the United States. Strides Against Stigma chose not only to publicize this sad information, but also to take a stand against the negative connotations surrounding depression. Depression is a treatable disease, noteworthy of recognition and support from the community for those suffering. For more information on Families for Depression Awareness or opportunities to volunteer, please visit their website at familyaware.org.