On average, about 45,000 people lose their lives to suicide per year in the United States, making it the tenth leading cause of death in America.
For Cory Byers, a junior, psychology major and Medallion Scholar at IU Southeast, this statistic hits very close to home.
In July of 2016, Byers’ stepmother took her life after battling 28 years of mental illness.
“A lot of people might think that taking their life is their only outcome and for her it was,” said Byers about his stepmother. “She was in a great deal of pain after twenty-eight years of going through multiple medications. It affected my family quite tremendously. We have to talk about it with a lot of compassion and make sure the lines of communication are open.”
Since the death of his stepmother, Byers has been an active participant in Suicide Prevention Week at IU Southeast. Hosted by Personal Counseling Services, the week features several events designed to promote mental wellness.
This year the week will include the annual Out of the Darkness Community Walk and Send Silence Packing, an all-day display of over 250 backpacks with pictures and stories of students who have died by suicide. Send Silence Packing was funded by a grant from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County.
The Out of the Darkness Community walk will occur at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, at McCullough Plaza on the IU Southeast campus. Registration will open at 9:00 a.m. Saturday. Those interested can also register or donate in advance by visiting the IU Southeast walk website.
Participants will gather at the clock tower in McCullough Plaza for the 2-mile, non-competitive walk around campus. Proceeds from the walk will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which launched its Out of the Darkness Campus Walk campaign in 2010. Since then, the walks have occurred on college and high school campuses across the country.
This year Byers has already raised over $1,200 for the walk, beating his goal of $1000 and more than doubling the amount he raised last year.
“People who struggle with mental illness are experiencing darkness and there is barely any light,” said Byers. “We can be that light for them in their darkest of times and help brighten their life and get them the help they need. It is very important to me to try to reach as many people as I can, especially if they are able and willing to talk.”
Cory Byers speaks at the 2017 Out of the Darkness Community Walk.
Send Silence Packing will be Monday, Oct. 1, from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at McCullough Plaza. Visitors are invited to walk among the Send Silence Packing backpacks to see the photographs and read the stories attached to them. Many of the backpacks were donated by families who lost a student to suicide.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals ages seventeen to twenty-four and one of the most preventable causes of death, yet many people are afraid to get involved,” said Michael Day, director of IU Southeast’s Personal Counseling Services. “These events serve to raise awareness and open conversations that often lead students to seek help.”
For a complete list of Suicide Prevention Week events visit https://bit.ly/2OfUlUm.