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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Speaking up about suicide

SURVIVOR DAY / COURTESY
SURVIVOR DAY / COURTESY

UC Davis clubs host first annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day

On Nov. 21, Active Minds, Out of the Darkness and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) clubs collaborated to host the first-ever International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day (Survivor Day), held from 2 to 4 p.m. in the UC Davis Student Community Center.

According to Briana Megid, co-president of Out Of the Darkness and third-year political science major, this event not only served as the first Survivor Day at UC Davis, but was also the first one ever to be held at a college campus in the United States.

“We went to a Survivor Day event in Sacramento and it was great, but it was super out of touch for people under the age of 40,” Megid said. “There was a huge disconnect in resources, needs and tone. So we decided we wanted to do something following the same mission.”

Survivor Day at UC Davis was created for primarily college-aged individuals; those not in that age-group were advised to attend a different Survivor Day event. The three clubs strived to create a personal space that often isn’t available to students in public university settings.

“We’re all coming from that same angle and it’s definitely something that’s not talked about a lot and a lot of people are uncomfortable with it,” said Savannah Downey, vice president of Out Of the Darkness and third-year environmental planning and policy major. “I like this being only for college students because we want this to be talked about and it is really relevant to college students and it affects our lives greatly.”

The event included activities such as discussion circles, a film made by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and a keynote speaker.

“The idea is to have anyone that’s going through something to be able to reflect on that [at this event],” Megid said. “A lot of the time people are just running through life and they don’t get to take care of themselves and their emotions.”

With the event, all three clubs aimed to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, hoping to raise awareness and educate students and community members about mental health.

“We work with the stigma around mental illness and how we can combat that stigma,” said Alan Castillo, a NAMI ambassador and fourth-year psychology major. “[We want to] increase the conversation and make people comfortable talking about mental illnesses.”

Out of the Darkness works with the AFSP to further that mission through various programs run by the organization.

“[Out of the Darkness wants to be able] to create an atmosphere on campus for people to talk about [suicide and mental illnesses]. We’re trying to be that one group that you can identify with and reach out to,” Megid said. “It’s different from the other clubs that focus on mental health and illnesses because we’re less clinical about it. For us, it’s very personal.”

Although the three clubs have collaborated in the past, Survivor Day was the first event they held together on campus. They hope to continue Survivor Day as an annual event for future generations of UC Davis students.

“[Mental health] might’ve been a topic that was never really talked about [but] it’s always going to be a good time to talk about it,” said Jacklyn Leonardo, NAMI publicity director and third-year cognitive science and neurobiology, physiology and behavior major. “It’s not the first time [we worked together], and it wouldn’t be the last time either.”

Written by: Fatima Siddiqui – features@theaggie.org

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