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Shedding light on a dark subject

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    Charles Nemeroff, professor and chair of psychiatry, addresses walkers before the start of the Out of the Darkness community walk for suicide prevention.

    For the hundreds of people who assembled on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus, the task of raising awareness about suicide and helping to prevent the tragic act began with one step.

    Donning walking shoes and shorts, faculty, staff, and students from across the University participated in the Out of the Darkness community walk for suicide prevention last Sunday, raising more than $35,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and, just as importantly, awareness of a problem Charles Nemeroff, professor and chair of psychiatry at UM’s Miller School of Medicine, called a “very important public health issue.”

    “We believe we will see 40,000 people die by suicide this year, and that is frightening,” said Nemeroff, who served as co-chair of the event. Walking alongside Nemeroff and sharing his passion for the importance of suicide prevention and education was Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, who was named honorary chair for the fundraising walk.

    The Department of Wellness and Recreation, the UM Counseling Center and a group called UM Lifeguards, which helps raise awareness about suicide prevention, depression and mental health, played a major role in walk. “We were proud to partner with the Miller School, the Department of Psychiatry, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to bring this important problem that affects college students nationwide to the forefront,” said UM Vice President for Student Affairs Pat Whitely.

    More than 34,000 people commit suicide each year, with an estimated 1 million more attempting the act. Among college students, it is the second-leading cause of death.

    “It [suicide] is definitely a huge problem,” said Patricia Rodriguez Gilmore, a therapist at the Counseling Center who heads UM Lifeguards. “This is something we’re seeing nationwide. Events like this walk really bring the issue out in the open. Some of the feedback we heard was that the event made people who were depressed feel less alone.”

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