Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

‘Orlando Out of the Darkness’ Walk Empowers Community With Mental Health Advocacy on February 24

On Feb. 24, Baldwin Park hosted “Orlando Out of the Darkness 2024” bringing families, friends, and strangers to walk about three miles around Lake Baldwin. (Shana Gothing)

Out of the Darkness is an annual community walk to bring suicide awareness and connect people who have lost a loved one or have overcome past experiences.

The “Orlando Out of the Darkness 2024” walk was held on Feb. 24 in Baldwin Park. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention holds Out of the Darkness events to help the community create a culture that helps people get a better understanding of mental disorders and the importance of mental health.

Olivia Len, who has volunteered for fifteen years, said, “It is a national organization, but we run it like a local chapter; it doesn’t feel like big time.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 49,449 provisional deaths from suicide in 2022 in the United States.

As per the AFSP website, the walk is intended to bring people together from family, friends, and coworkers to remember who they’ve lost and to support each other. 

“It’s not supposed to be like a solemn walk … on the contrary, this is to celebrate life and to celebrate the remembrance of the people that we’ve lost,” Len adds, “We want to prevent suicide, right? So, the more awareness that we could build within our community, the more we can achieve.”

The “Orlando Out of the Darkness 2024” walk raised over $120,000. “The purpose of the walk is really, yes, to raise money, but more importantly to have everyone who has lost someone to suicide come together, once a year, so everyone understands what we’re going through, you know, losing someone to suicide is very different … it’s a different kind of grief,” Len said.

The funds raised by the walk AFSP uses to advocate public policies and to create and distribute suicide prevention resources. The money also goes into research for suicide prevention and to support the people who are affected by suicide.

Len adds that the Out of the Darkness community walks brings strangers and people who know each other together, and says, “Everyone becomes one unit, and just like a support group system at this walk.”

Avant Healthcare Professionals Benefit Specialist Michael Spayd attended this year’s event. Spayd said, “It was good seeing the community band together for this cause, the company that I work for has a team, and I think this is the third year they’ve done it.”

This was Spayd’s second time attending an Orlando Out of the Darkness walk.. “The walks are definitely needed. Mental health still continues to be a problem in this country.” 

Spayd added, “I lost several friends over the years, I think awareness of this issue is very important.” 

Valencia College Active Minds posted this event to get students involved with this walk. The Active Minds club actively helps students feel open about their mental health and provides support to students. 

Club Advisor Leah Basaria, explained, “We participated in both this walk and the National Alliance on Mental Health walks last year as well.” Basaria continued, “A lot of people hold up signs and are wearing mental health stuff, so, just the general community and public has a chance to think about mental health.”  

Basaria said, “We are also here to connect you to all of the free campus and community resources that are available for whatever you need to help you be okay again.”

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About the Contributor
Shana Gothing
Shana Gothing, Reporter
Shana Gothing is a second-year Valencia College student studying for her Associate's in Arts degree. She is interested in Humanities and Art Studies. In her free time, she enjoys listening to any type of music, reading, and writing.

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    Dámaris Mariana TapiaMar 27, 2024 at 7:19 pm


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    JasonMar 7, 2024 at 6:51 pm

    Very well written!