Ramapo students and staff participate in suicide prevention walk

A team of over 45 Roadrunners attended Bergen County’s American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Out of the Darkness Walk at Saddle River County Park on Sunday morning. Together, Ramapo’s team raised $1,137 for AFSP.

The walk began with a brief speech and some opening remarks. The all-volunteer event staff was thanked for their efforts in furthering AFSP’s goals, which include reducing the overall prevalence of suicide by 20 percent by 2025.

AFSP works toward this goal by funding research, promoting legislation, providing education about mental health and supporting those affected by suicide. According to Elizabeth Clemens, the executive director of New Jersey’s chapter of ASFP, they have had success in helping establish 988 as the national suicide prevention hotline and hosting seven locations that provide support throughout New Jersey.

The speaker talked about some of AFSP’s current efforts, including providing $23.7 million in research grants and supporting suicide prevention programs in K-12 schools. The Out of the Darkness Walk is also one of 13 walks in New Jersey organized by the AFSP.

The AFSP speaker mentioned the prevalence of suicide in first responders and AFSP’s belief that police officers can be trained to adequately respond to mental health crises as a group of officers from the Saddle Brook Police Department stood on the stage with them.

Participants of the walk could choose to wear beads as subtle but powerful indicators of their motivation behind participating. The colors represented how suicide has affected them, whether the person was honoring a loved one who died by suicide, their own personal struggle, or the LGBTQ+ community and were attending to just support the cause.

Chris Popp, a participant in the walk, shared his experience with his mental health and supporting a loved one through their struggles.

“I think [suicide is] a really important thing to raise awareness for. I think too many people go for a very long time feeling like they are suffering alone, and if there is more awareness then maybe we can gather a sense of community around it and make people feel a little more seen and heard,” he said.

Popp mentioned how mental health struggles can be a “dark path” and how connection with others can play an important role in improving mental health. “I think sometimes one of the biggest things you can realize when you’re feeling that way is that you’re not alone,” he said.

Another participant shared that she has lost many loved ones to suicide, which motivated her to participate in the walk.

“My daughter’s husband committed suicide when he was 41. She had been with him for eight years. And afterwards, my brother also committed suicide,” they said. “So we’re here to support those two families…and for two members of our church who also lost their sons. But also for everyone else.”

A common issue with suicide prevention is not being aware of a loved one’s ongoing struggle. Primarily, this is due to stigma, or society’s negative and disgraceful attitude towards these issues.

Bergen County is working hard to educate its residents and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. Notably, signs were posted in various neighborhoods addressing the matter to provoke public interest. In doing so, the county also hopes to reduce isolation and shame and provide support for those struggling.

Popp views all of these initiatives as positive steps forward in preventing suicide. “Everyone wants to see you here and no one wants to see you gone,” he said.

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with their mental health or thoughts of suicide, please contact the Suicide Hotline at by calling 988, Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741 or Ramapo’s Counseling Services at 201-684-7522.


jgray11@ramapo.edu & cmusanti@ramapo.edu

Featured photo courtesy by Jessica C. Gray