When Brendon Dempsey '13 got word of first-year student Jeffrey Cooney's death last December, the news hit him hard.
A Resident Assistant at Holy Cross Center where Cooney (pictured left) lived, Dempsey was stunned to learn he had taken his own life.
"Jeff was a vibrant and well-liked member of our community. He was someone who was always smiling and laughing with friends. His death came as a shock to all of us and has personally left me reeling over the last nine months," says Dempsey.
When he found out about a walk aimed at raising funds for suicide prevention education and awareness, he immediately knew it was something he had to do. What he didn't expect was the tremendous amount of support he would get from the Stonehill community.
So far, Dempsey, several other students and residence life and student affairs staff members have rallied to raise over $10,000 for the Out of the Darkness Walk, making Stonehill the second largest fundraiser for the event. Over 140 Stonehill community members have signed up for the walk, scheduled for Saturday, October 13 at Artesani Park in Brighton.
Sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the Out of the Darkness Community Walks benefit vital research and education programs to prevent suicide and save lives, increase national awareness about depression and suicide, and assist survivors of suicide loss.
The Boston walk, which includes a 2.5 mile loop of the Charles River, has already raised nearly $185,000. With the help of the Office of Student Affairs, the Office of Residence Life, and the Counseling and Testing Center, free transportation will be provided to the walk in Brighton from the Stonehill campus.
"We are motivated by the fact that suicide is preventable and the knowledge that we can do something about it. 36,000 people take their lives each year; that is equivalent to a sold out Fenway Park audience. It is time we bring this cause to light and provide individuals suffering from depression a hope," says Dempsey, who has been assisted by fellow residence assistants Laura Bilotti '14, Min Kim '13, Luis Polanco '13, Sean Davenport '15, Kat Hemming '13 , Xander Ventola '14 , and Jasmin Volpe '15 in promoting the walk.
Dempsey adds, "This has truly been a team effort and one that perfectly illustrates just what the Stonehill community is all about. Similar to how the community came together after the passing of Jeff Cooney, so again has the community come together to make this event possible and to take steps to prevent suicide."
This year, Stonehill's Health and Wellness Office in conjunction with the Counseling and Testing Center, are sponsoring several QPR Suicide Prevention Workshops for faculty, staff and students at the College. QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) is a nationally recognized suicide prevention program providing useful skills in supporting distressed individuals and connecting them to resources. Staff Clinician from the Counseling and Testing Center Jennifer Pretsch along with Health and Wellness Coordinator Jessica Greene, are certified as QPR trainers.
Stonehill reminds students if they or someone they know is in need of support, clinicians from the Counseling and Testing Center are available Monday-Friday, 8:30-4:30, with offices at the Chapel of Mary. Students can call the Center's main phone at (508) 565-1331 to arrange an appointment. After hours, a counselor-on-call can be accessed for urgent needs through Residence Life staff or by calling Campus Switchboard at (508) 565-1000.
About The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP):
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.