Last year’s inaugural suicide prevention walk in partnership with the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) made an enormous impact on our Paradise Valley Community College community so we have made it an annual event. This year’s Out of the Darkness campus walk promoting mental health and suicide prevention will be held March 2, 2024, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on the Union Hills Campus, 18401 N 32nd Street in Phoenix. The event will include an address by Dr. Amina Simmons, PVCC’s executive director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; suicide loss survivor Ryan Smith; a bead ceremony for those affected by suicide; and a PVCC choir performance.
Based on the most recent Youth Risk Behaviors Survey from 2021, 10 percent of youth in grades ninth through twelfth reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt int he past 12 months. Female students attempted 1.86 times as often as male students, and it is the second leading cause of death for those ten to 34 years old.
“The success of this event highlights the power of unity and community engagement in addressing critical mental health issues,” said Julie Lazzara, PVCC division chair of Social and Behavioral Sciences, who initiated the suicide prevention walk on campus in memory of her nephew, David.
Lazzara’s developmental psychology students actively participated in the planning and volunteered during last year’s event as part of their service learning component, showcasing their commitment to making a difference in their community. More than 150 people participated in the walk, raising more than $10 thousand for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. PVCC hopes to surpass that amount this year.
PVCC and the AFSP remain committed to continuing their efforts in suicide prevention, supporting individuals in need, and raising awareness to save lives. This gathering not only supports AFSP’s education, research, and survivor support programs, it helps to raise awareness and funds to fight suicide, and give those who attend a chance to connect with others and know they are not alone, whether they walk in memory or in support of a loved one or in honor of their own mental health journey.
“The walk is not only for those who have lost someone, but also for those who have struggled with mental health challenges in the past and for those who are struggling to find their way right now. We are all in this together,” said Gina Gillis, special events manager, AFSP.