On Sept. 14, the Student Alliance for Mental Health Wellness club (SAMHW) took part in the Out Of The Darkness Oahu Walk. The walk was put on by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), which aims to reduce the annual rate of suicide in the U.S. by 20 percent before 2025.
“The purpose was to bring more awareness to the community about the suicide problem of our generation. Also, to show support to those who have lost loved ones due to suicide,” said SAMHW club President Megan Ogasawara.
The walk took place in over 320 communities around the U.S. This being the seventh annual walk on Oahu, the event hit a new record of 900 participants. “I think by doing this walk, there’s a lot of people on the streets who honk and it was like — kind of just spreading awareness and getting the Hawaiian community to be more aware of suicide because I feel like it’s more of a problem in the mainland, but even in Hawai’i you will still have suicide and those type of challenges. So I think the fact that we got to bring this walk into the community was good,” said Ogasawara. Senior Noah Basa added, “Well, I was feeling very tired throughout the whole walk. But I’m with everyone — around about 900 people. I felt (a sense of) family and ohana. Just being very strong.”
The general purpose of the walk was to spread awareness about depression and suicide. However, for many of the students, the walk also carried a personal meaning for them. “Last year, my sister was the president for this club and her biggest theme last year was suicide prevention. And coming from a person that knows what it feels like to have family members who deal with suicidal thoughts, I thought it’s very important to bring to the community — how important suicide awareness should be. I feel like a lot of people don’t really realize how important and how much of a problem it is,” said Ogasawara. Basa added, “A couple of my friends (have) been going through some tough times. They’ve experienced suicidal (thoughts) and almost killed themselves. So I just want to be there for them and make sure I’m knowledgeable in this sort of thing.”
Besides the 30 minute long walk around Ala Moana Beach Park, the event also had various booths and entertainment. Several guest speakers also attended the walk to share their personal stories relating to suicide. “There was a lot of games and dancing. And there was shave ice and a lot of booths where you could talk to different people, like from the military and even from 24 Hour Fitness. Just like a lot of different people from Hawai’i and it was a good experience,” said Ogasawara. Basa added, “I went around to the different (booths) and checked out each. Some (raised) veteran awareness about what happens after the military and some things to help prevent suicide.”
For the SAMHW club, this walk was one of many events they have planned for the school year. They plan to host activities around school to help lower students’ stress levels. “For this year, I kind of wanted to focus on stress awareness, and I’m hoping (we can) do mechanisms for stress. Our club right now is kind of working on this stress room. It’s in the process of getting approved by our principal, Mr. Murphy,” said Ogasawara. “But basically, it’s like a room where it’s sound-proof. You can just do whatever the heck you want. It’s just a way to release stress. My sister actually thought of it last year, but we didn’t have enough time to execute it. So hopefully this will be a project that can come through.”
The next annual community walk is set to take place in the fall of 2020. For more information on suicide prevention, you can visit afsp.org/hawaii.