Guiding Out of the Darkness

Written by John Tappen
Published in the New Paltz Oracle

Photo from oracle.newpaltz.eduCharlene Martoni’s best friend lost  someone to suicide.

“I saw how one person’s suicide can have an affect on others — a ripple effect,” Martoni said.

For three years, Martoni, a fifth-year journalism and education major, has been the chairperson for the SUNY New Paltz Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention.

Martoni said the walk is an event where people can feel safe speaking about suicide — a subject that continues to be stigmatized.

“No one wants to talk about it,” Martoni said.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, following car accidents and addressing this fact is important because “suicide is preventable,” Martoni said.

During her time coordinating the Out of the Darkness Walk, Martoni said she has met neighbors, classmates and co-workers who are suicide survivors and felt comfortable talking about their experience.

The term “suicide survivor” encompasses anyone who has attempted suicide or has had a close friend or relative attempt or commit suicide, Martoni said.

“The biggest problem is getting people to talk about it,” Maria Idoni, Hudson Valley and Westchester chapter area director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said.

Idoni said the goal is to make people comfortable speaking about suicide — much in the same way that in the past it was taboo to talk about drunk driving or child abuse.

The Out of The Darkness Walk will raise money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Idoni estimates that in its first year, the event amassed $6,000.

Martoni said through working with the area AFSP, she “feels a part of a family,” and each year organizing the walk has gotten easier. Martoni said she’s been able to do more with this walk because of her experience from previous years.

At this year’s walk there will be three musical performances, a raffle and guest speakers from the school and from AFSP, Martoni said.

The walk, which will take place on Saturday, April 6 at 1:30 p.m., will begin on Parker Quad.

Martoni said the walk is “slow-paced and calming” and will culminate in a closing ceremony that involves announcing raffle winners, and a reading of names of lost loved ones given by participants at the beginning of the event.

Biodegradable balloons will be released at the end to honor the victims of suicide, Martoni said.

The Hudson Valley and Westchester chapters of the AFSP will host another Out of the Darkness Walk on Sunday, May 19 at Clarkstown High School North, Idoni said.

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