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Senior Psychology Major Leads AFSP Walk “Out of the Darkness”

AFSP Walk
Photo by: Gabrielle Argenio
Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Kira Marshall ‘18C, whose internship at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) led to a full-time job in May 2018, served as captain for the St. John’s University walker team in AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness” walk. The walk, which took place on Saturday, September 29 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Clove Lakes Park, aimed to raise funds and increase awareness for suicide prevention and mental health in the community.

With Ms. Marshall’s involvement, the walk increased in size from fewer than 200 walkers in 2017 to almost 500 walkers in 2018. By the day of the walk, AFSP already surpassed their fundraising goal of $40,000, though they continue to raise money for the walk until the end of the year. Last year, AFSP raised just over $23,000 for the walk and have increased that amount to more than $43,000 for 2018 so far. The walk also received press coverage from both NY1 and the Staten Island Advance.

Ms. Marshall was invited to join the AFSP Staten Island Walks Committee after meeting New York City Area Director Amy Monahan while an intern at the organization in February 2018. The walk coincides with a series of videos AFSP has released to spread awareness about suicide risk across the nation, including one entitled, “#Not6,”which reveals suicide to be a widespread issue that merits public attention. 

Ms. Marshall shared information about the walk with the St. John’s University Department of Student Wellness, which helped to increase participation among St. John’s students in conjunction with the SJUOK? Campaign. The St. John’s Staten Island Psychology Club—led by club president junior Michael Desando—also used the walk as their first event of the fall 2018 semester. “The walk was organized perfectly,” said Michael. “It raised awareness for topics that are not usually spoken about. The Psychology Club was so glad to attend and be a part of this because mental health is something that is very important to take care of.” Associate Professor of Psychology Philip Drucker, Ph.D., also attended the walk.

“I’ve developed so much personally that I feel like I can now help others who are struggling,” said Ms. Marshall. “I’m learning about the struggles people go through in my research and the walk is a more personal way to engage and help. This is an issue that affects so many people in our community.”

By making connections and soliciting donations, Ms. Marshall was able to support a bronze sponsorship from Panera Bread in the amount of $500. 

“The walk’s success is a sign to me that this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” said Ms. Marshall. “People attended without having any direct connection to the cause of raising suicide awareness; they just wanted to support us and by showing up, they show others they are not alone.”

Ms. Marshall, who hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, aims to expand her involvement with suicide awareness walks in future years.