James Madison University

Out of the Darkness Walk

Students, Mental Health Professionals, and Members of the Community Join Forces to Raise Awareness for Suicide Prevention


On Saturday April 30th, 2011, seventy-six people including JMU Counseling graduate students, members of CVCA, and members of the Harrisonburg community came together to raise awareness of the signs and risk factors for suicide while offering hope and solace to those who have lost loved ones during Harrisonburg’s first Chi Sigma Iota AFSP Out of the Darkness Campus Walk.  This event, hosted by Chi Sigma Iota Counseling Honor Society, was held at the RISE Mission House on the corner of South Mason and Cantrell Streets. Mental Health professionals from the Center for Marriage and Families, Central Valley Counselors Associations, and a representative of the nonprofessional support group Lanterns of Hope, distributed resources and were on hand to answer questions regarding services offered in our community.

PHOTO: Out of the Darkness Walk Passing Campus

During registration survivors shared their stories of lost loved ones, volunteers offered support, and donations were received. To date, the walk has raised $4, 310.15 of our $5,000 goal. Donations can be made up until June 30th, 2011 by using our donations page.

A memory wall was hung in the Mission House where those who have lost loved ones to suicide could share favorite memories, quotes, or messages. The wall was taken to the Miller Counseling Suite on the JMU Campus where it will be kept on display.  This was a day filled with unity, hope, and at time tears. Walkers held hands during a moment of silence offered as a part of the opening ceremony to honor those no longer with us. Several members of Chi Sigma Iota spoke offering support, comfort, stories, and information regarding suicide. The walk itself circled downtown Harrisonburg and traveled past the main part of the JMU campus. It was a powerful event held on a beautiful sunny day.
Many walkers expressed gratitude that this event was held in Harrisonburg. It was a chance for people in the community to come together and support one another, while raising awareness regarding an important mental health issue. Some walkers felt disappointment by the lack of resources and services available to survivors, and those struggling with suicidal feelings in our area. Chi Sigma Iota intends to make this walk a yearly event, and hopes that it will act as a springboard for helping increase support in our community for those in need.  

We would like to offer special thanks to volunteers from Chi Sigma Iota, the Counseling Programs, Central Valley Counselors Association, RISE for graciously donating their space and volunteers for the event, and the members of the community who donated their time and resources. Your Help made this a successful event!