Iowa State community joins to support suicide awareness


Photo by Nicole Hasek/ Iowa State Daily

Iowa State students, employees and community members joined together on Saturday to support suicide awareness and prevention.

Nicole Hasek

Trigger warning- mentions of suicide

On Saturday morning, 215 people, including families, friends, students and community members, joined together at Iowa State’s State Gym to support the same cause: suicide awareness and prevention.

Iowa State held its fifth on-campus “Out of Darkness Walk,” where at the time of check-in, they raised over $11,300 of their $5,000 goal. These funds will go towards suicide prevention efforts and support of those who have been affected by suicide.

Many students volunteered to help set up the check-in area and make sure participants followed the 2.5 miles of set paths through central campus during the walk.

Stephanie Warnstadt, a student volunteer, said, “We do this for our job, but it’s also a very important thing to do. You can see here it impacts so many people.”

Along with students, there were also volunteers from National Alliance on Mental Illness and Student Counseling Services providing resources and information during check-in.

To start off the event, a welcome and note of appreciation was given by Kristen Sievert, director of Student Counseling Services at Iowa State. Sievert also gave a heartfelt introduction to the event’s guest speaker.

“I have the privilege of introducing our speaker Susan Owen,” Sievert said. “On Sept. 16th, 2020, Susan’s son committed suicide. Susan is a brokenhearted mother who chose not to be bitter, [but] rather to demand change. She seeks to break the stigma surrounding mental health needs and create a community of caring support for those who are struggling.”

Owen lost her son to suicide shortly after the death of her mother, and she spent her time sharing stories of this difficult event and inspiring those who attended. Owen also brought a photo of her son to show the audience as she spoke.

“I have not felt anger at all. I felt extreme sadness because he asked for help. We all could have done better, and that was what I was feeling,” Owen said. “It was gut wrenching pain that I do not wish upon my worst enemy.”

Along with the sadness came a loss of self and identity, according to Owen. She had always been the mother to her son, Henry, and suddenly that was taken from her. During this time, she had many people she could grieve with, and she expressed her gratitude towards them.

“We were open, we were honest, we didn’t grieve in a prescribed way, we had no right or wrong way to do it,” Owen said. “We didn’t set a timetable; it’s still going on, and it should be still going on. What I realized out of the tragedy of my life, I truly saw beauty in deep connection and the importance of how vital they are to the human spirit.”

While each individual at the event walked for suicide awareness and prevention, everyone involved had their own personal reasons to walk.

“In my past I’ve struggled with depression and suicide, and I recently lost a close friend’s parent to suicide. I’m walking for myself along with them to support them,” an Iowa State student said.

Community members also shared their reasoning behind attending the event.

“I have lost a family member and four friends to suicide,” an Ames community member said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24 hours, is 800-273-8255.