A circle of candles glowed in the dark in front of Moseley Center during the National Suicide Prevention Month Vigil.
Students and professors gathered to remember their peers, friends and relatives who they have lost to suicide, and those in attendance reflected on how those losses have affected their own lives.
The vigil began Sept. 24 with an address from Elizabeth Nelson, associate director for health promotion, and Kirstin Ringelberg, LGBTQ office coordinator and professor of art history, who spoke about the high prevalence of suicide in the LGBTQ community.
“If you’re given constant messages from the media, your parents and your places of worship that you aren’t normal, suicide might seem like it is the only option you have,” Ringelberg said.
The opening addresses encouraged students to have respect for the struggles individuals face, but to also understand no one should feel alone in his or her pain.
After a moment of silence, students were invited to share their own stories and feelings about their personal experiences with suicide.
“A lot of people are uncomfortable talking about suicide,” said Laura Lee Sturm, vice president of Spectrum and coordinator of the vigil. “But it’s such a big issue that affects so many people in so many ways. And when no one talks about it, people feel like they’re alone.”
In planning the event, Sturm said she originally intended for the vigil to call attention to the high rate of suicide in the LGBTQ community. But after reflecting on the issue, she said she realized suicide affects a much wider range of students across campus.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sturm said she felt it was important for students from a variety of backgrounds to stand together during the event.
“If anything, it is a unifying factor,” Sturm said. “It’s something we all must fight against, no matter how you identify yourself.”
Senior Lauren Clapp said she attended the vigil because she knows people who have committed suicide and said she felt personally connected with the issue addressed.
“I think it is really important that as a community we show solidarity,” Clapp said. “This issue is not talked about enough, and it is really important that we bring it to the surface.”