The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

The Independent Student Voice of NMSU Since 1907

NMSU Round Up

NMSU community strides in support of mental health awareness

David Castañeda
Attendees of the Out Of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk finish their 2.18 mile walk. April 13, 2024.

This story contains descriptions of suicide and mental illness. If you or someone you know is struggling, you can text or call 988 to receive mental health crisis care. If needed, the Aggie Health and Wellness Center provides on-campus mental health resources for students by visiting or calling (575)-646-1512.  

United in their support for mental health advocacy, dozens of New Mexico State University students and community members gathered at the Corbett Outdoor Stage to participate in the Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk on Saturday, April 13. The early morning was off to an energetic start as participants arrived on campus to register for the walk and collect information about the route. 

This event was part of a series of Out of Darkness Campus Walks administered by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), each with the goal of raising funds and awareness for mental health advocacy amongst young adults. This organization’s mission is to make suicide prevention and mental health awareness a national priority, especially considering that suicide is the third leading cause of death in ages between 15-24

In addition to AFSP, many other individuals assisted with the planning of the walk, including volunteers, students and sponsors. Notably, New Mexico State University student Sheena Merino served as the walk coordinator, responsible for assembling a small council and organizing the event for the university.

Sheena Merino, organizer of the Out Of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk, thanks attendees for their support on April 13, 2024. (David Castañeda)

“This is about making a statement, whether you choose to walk, not walk, or just come,” Merino said. “It is about choosing to use your voice in a way that says mental health does matter.” 

Local sponsorship greatly contributed to the event by providing donations, water, snacks and other items. The list of sponsors consisted of several different businesses, including Peak Behavioral Health, White Sands Federal Credit Union, Citizen Bank and Natural Grocers.  

Before beginning the walk, participants were greeted by heartfelt words from Merino and Kristine Drake, a Peak Behavioral Health representative. They expressed the importance of everyone’s presence at the event, as it showed that they not only acknowledge the fact that mental health issues exist, but also encourage accessibility to resources and support. 

“No matter what brought you here today, by showing up, you are making a really bold statement that you believe in mental health,” Merino said. “You are helping to shift attitudes about mental health and create a movement that demands change.”  

Participants began their two-mile walk on International Mall, steadily making their way down towards the Horseshoe Field. As they walked throughout campus, individuals were encouraged to wear beaded necklaces that honored their purpose and loved ones. The colors — white, red, green, gold, orange, purple, silver, teal and blue — complemented each participant as they demonstrated what the walk meant to them. 

“For me, it has become an overall mental health crisis in the United States and across the world, especially after the Covid pandemic; lots of people are struggling with mental health, and suicide rates were just skyrocketing at that time and still continue to.” Emily Bourne Pieroni said. Pieroni is a clinical mental health counseling graduate student at NMSU who helped with and participated in the walk. 

A walker bows their head in honor of the lives lost to suicide. April 13, 2024. (David Castañeda)

“It is something that I am very passionate about and really raising awareness about it,” Pieroni said. “Having those tough conversations I think is a big part of it too. And then those who have taken their lives — I think it is very important to not forget them.”  

The Out of Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk concluded after everyone advanced upwards on Steward Street, eventually finding themselves back at the Corbett Outdoor Stage. Upon arriving, various NMSU organizations patiently welcomed individuals back with information and snacks.  

Smiles and conversations filled the space as people approached the tables of the Aggie Health and Wellness Center, Disability Access Services, Save the Children, Active Minds, School of Nursing and many more.  

With the event coming to an end, organizers and walkers had important messages to take away. NMSU student Anna Quintana, for example, participated in the walk and emphasized the need for resources.   

“People need to know more about resources that they can reach out to, that they are not alone, and that there is help out there for whenever they are in crisis,” Quintana said. In addition to resources, Quintana also spoke about future opportunities for mental health advocacy. 

“I think we should do more stuff like these, especially if we want to spread more awareness and support,” Quintana said. “Since this is a very big issue within the United States, it is something that we need to focus on.” 

For more information regarding Out of Darkness Campus Walks, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s webpage here.

Facebook Comments
Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributors
Ashley Infante
Ashley Infante, News Editor
Ashley Infante is entering her first year with The Round Up as the News Editor. She is currently a junior at New Mexico State University, double majoring in Government and Justice, Political Philosophy and Law. She was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, but was drawn to Las Cruces for its interconnected, supportive community. Ashley’s interests in writing and journalism quickly grew during her high school experiences attending a humanities magnet program. She specifically focused on the historical development of social issues and writing about their impacts in today’s society. She continues expanding such passions at NMSU, now hoping to share students’ stories on anything from the issues they face to interests they wish to share. Outside of an academic context, Ashley enjoys long road trips, participating in outdoor sports, and watching films. She finds these activities very engaging and healing on the mind.
David Castañeda
David Castañeda, Multimedia Director
David Castañeda is starting his second year here at The Round Up, this being his first year as Multimedia Director. This is his second year at New Mexico State University and is majoring in Journalism & Media Studies. He was born and raised in El Paso, Texas as an only child but is extremely happy to be able to call Las Cruces his new home. David has had an affinity for photography since he was in elementary school and has only fallen deeper in love with the art through this job. Though David enjoys nothing more than to be behind a camera he loves to try to explore new hobbies and career options. He’s currently focused on improving his photography at The Round Up and working with the Multimedia Specialists to make the Multimedia team the best it can be. When he isn’t taking photos or editing them on Photoshop, David loves to spend his time with his 3-year-long girlfriend in their apartment where they frequently cuddle up in bed to watch some trash TV and films. On his own, he loves to play the bass and listen to music. His favorite artists are The Strokes and Gorillaz.    

Comments (0)

All NMSU Round Up Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *