Alpha Nu Omega holds first annual suicide awareness walk

President of Alpha Nu Omega Tatiana Polnitz places a yellow flag in memory of suicide victims. -Staff photo/Okanke-Victor Oden

President of Alpha Nu Omega Tatiana Polnitz places a yellow flag in memory of suicide victims. -Staff photo/Okanke-Victor Oden

 

Individuals filled the Chamberlain Student Center Pit to spread words of encouragement and to remember those who thought their lives weren’t worth living.

The sisters of Alpha Nu Omega held their first Suicide Awareness Walk on April 22 to raise mindfulness of mental health issues. Their goal was to spread suicide awareness on college campuses and enforce that “you are worth every step.”

Alpha Nu Omega is the sorority dedicated to promoting integrity and awareness of mental health at Rowan. They host events that aim toward the needs of women including self-esteem, relationships and body image.

“We minister to the spiritual and physical needs of campus students to promote healthiness, living right and things that effect people for the positive,” said Kayla Martin, senior director of ministry for Alpha Nu Omega.

Although Alpha Nu Omega holds other events like this on stress relief, the Suicide Awareness Walk is held close to its heart. Their visionary founder’s son had taken his life, and that is when the members chose their natural philanthropy of mental health.

The event stressed that the suicide rate is rising on college campuses and this event helped promote awareness by teaching students about mental health issues and equipping them with the tools they need to educate and help others. Martin said people may not know how to deal with suicide or know the signs of it.

Alpha Nu Omega and Healthy Campus Initiatives promote Rowan’s “RU a Lifesaver” organization. It encourages help-seeking behavior and aims to reduce the stigma of mental health. It also provides students with a phone number of a counselor on call if they need to talk.

In addition to basic knowledge provided about the organization, there was an interactive portion in which students were asked questions about suicide, with a chance of winning an “RU a Lifesaver” T-shirt. The questions allowed students to learn about suicide and what to do in a suicide situation.

Other organizations that promote mental health awareness also had tables set up around the Pit. To Write Love on Her Arms educates the community on different mental health issues and holds events promoting hope. Influenced by the website Post-Secret, students from Help Hotline encouraged students to express personal secrets anonymously to get it off their chests without feeling judged.

What’s more, Alpha Nu Omega encouraged students to sign their names and take the pledge to be a person of help to others struggling with mental health. There were also packets to take home that were titled “Coping with Suicidal Thoughts” and “Why Do I Feel This Way,” which helped students to become more aware.

“This is a very impactful event,” said Danielle Farmer, Alpha Nu Omega sister and sophomore elementary education and liberal studies dual major. “Suicide is becoming very prominent in college and it doesn’t get recognized until it’s too late. We’re all about prevention.”

As an employee of an organization that educates about mental health through personal experience right outside of Philadelphia called Minding Your Mind, Melissa Hopely works as a motivational speaker. She talked at the event about her past, how she was the perfect athlete and always hid behind her smile. Hopely stressed that a lot of people are struggling behind the front they put up just as she did. However, she was able to get through her struggles and now spreads awareness to let people know there is hope and help out there.

“We need to celebrate others and let them know they’re not alone, that they matter,” Hopely said.

In preparation for the Suicide Awareness Walk, yellow flags were provided for students to write encouraging words or remember someone they lost to suicide. These flags were placed about campus throughout the walk, ending the silence around the issue and giving a voice to those who struggle to find their own.

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