More than 200 people raised over $30,000 in the 11th Annual Greater Ithaca Out of the Darkness Walk on September 9 organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Greater Central New York Chapter.
2023 Out of the Darkness Walk at Myers Park
The walk, which took place in Meyers Park in Lansing on the edge of Cayuga Lake, is among 400 held across the country every year designed to raise awareness and collect funds for research, training, and programming.
This year’s Greater Ithaca walk was held during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Walkers included many people who lost a loved one, friend, or colleague to suicide.
L³ Lisa’s Lagomorph Legion was the top fundraising team this year, collecting $6,285. Team Hope brought in $3,507; Jack’s Pack $2,377; Team 22 $1,150; and CFCU Standing with Stacy $1,110.
“Our mission, to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide, would not be possible without each of you,” Crystal Howser, the walk chair, said in remarks kicking off the event.
Howser said that she volunteers with AFSP to remember and honor the memory of her father, Jerry Howser, and the many others who lost their battle to depression and other mental illnesses.
“We strive to be a source of strength for our community and let everyone know they are not alone,” she added. “On this journey, strangers turn into friends and friends turn into family as we connect with one another and navigate through our grief. Together, we are strong. Together, we are making a difference.”
AFSP’s Cheyanne Scholl, Crystal Howser, and Karen Heisig
Dave Ashton, morning host on Ithaca’s WYXL-FM, said that suicide is the eleventh leading cause of death in the United States and can no longer be swept under the rug.
“By showing up today, you are sending the message that mental health is as real as physical health. You are sending the message that reaching out for help is the strong thing to do. Suicide is a health issue that affects all of us,” he said.
Scott MacLeod, co-founder of The Sophie Fund, a mental health advocacy organization in Ithaca, said that the most recent statistics indicate a 5 percent increase in the national suicide rate in 2021 and 2.6 percent increase in 2022.
But he cited contributions to greater local suicide prevention efforts, by AFSP as well as the Tompkins County Suicide Prevention Coalition, Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, Cayuga Health System, and others. He said that medical providers are working toward implementing the Zero Suicide Model, a quality improvement program designed to more effectively identify at-risk individuals and close gaps in in their care management.
The 2023 walk was sponsored by:
CFCU Community Credit Union; The Strebel Planning Group’s Fund for Community Enrichment; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Maguire Automotive; Borgwarner; Pizza and Bones; Lansing Funeral Home; Ithaca Beer Company; Texas Roadhouse; Moore Family Farm; Cayuga Health System; Visions Federal Credit Union; Lansing Redemption Center; Cayuga Lake National Bank; Tioga State Bank Foundation; Ithaca Apartment Management/Solomon Organization; Antlers Restaurant; GreenStar Food Co+op.
Hey, Ithaca! It’s National Suicide Prevention Month. Mark your calendars to support our own community’s efforts to save lives and reach those who are struggling.
The Greater Central New York chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention holds its annual Greater Ithaca “Out of the Darkness” walk in Myers Park on Saturday September 9 with check-in starting at 9:30 a.m.
The local walk is among 400 held across the country every year to raise awareness and collect funds for AFSP’s mission, which includes research, training, programming, and education. Walkers include many people who have lost a loved one, friend, or colleague to suicide.
Click here to register for the walk or to make an online donation toward AFSP-CNY’s $60,000 fundraising goal.
“It has been 25 years since we lost my sad to suicide, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and miss him dearly,” said Crystal Howser, walk co-chair and captain of Team Hope.
“It is my goal to work hard, educate, erase stigma and help fight to prevent suicide losses from happening. This is our eleventh walk in Tompkins County. We need to let others know they are not alone and it is okay to reach out for help.”
“Boots & Bling” is a Western Gala fundraiser at the Ithaca Hotel on Saturday from 5-9 p.m. to support Ithaca’s Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service. A night of dinner, dancing, inspiration, and connection will celebrate SPCS’s milestones, growth, and future vision.
Reservations closed for the event on September 1, but to make a donation to SPCS anytime you may click here. The funds will support SPCS’s critical mission as a regional call center for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline as well as a trainer and educator for suicide prevention in the community.
Nearly 200 people traveled a collective total of 337 miles in the rain and raised $11,692.32 on April 30 in the first-ever Out of the Darkness walk for suicide prevention to take place on the Cornell University campus.
Cornell Swimming & Diving Team
Throngs with ponchos, umbrellas, yellow galoshes, or just getting soaked in an April shower, including Cornell fraternity brothers, the Swimming & Diving, Tennis, and Volleyball teams, among others in the Cornell community, trekked the two-mile route from Corson-Mudd Hall, to the College of Veterinary Medicine, Feeney Way, and back again.
“By showing up today, you are sending the message that mental health is as real as physical health,” said chief organizer Cheyanne Scholl during an opening ceremony inside the Corson-Mudd atrium.
“You are sending the message that reaching out for help is the strong thing to do. You are showing others that the issue of suicide cannot and will not be kept in the darkness. And thanks to you, we remain hopeful.”
More than 500 Out of the Darkness walks are held across the country each year by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to raise awareness, collect research funds, and send a message that “suicide is preventable and no one is alone.” In 2022, Overnight, Community, and Campus walks raised more than $21 million.
Among the participants in the Cornell walk were 14 campus fundraising teams, with Team Malibu raising the most funds, $1,450. Other top teams included SCL-TCOB, Cornell Vet, Alpha Gamma Rho, and The Statler Hotel. Skye Krehbiel was the top individual fundraiser with $1,210, and Michelle Moyal was second with $698.02.
Local businesses also supported the walk with donations, including Wegmans Panera Bread, Mirabito, Uncle Marty’s Shipping Office, Big Red Barbershop, and Cornell University.
Stacy Ayres and Crystal Howser of AFSP, and Co-Chair Cheyanne Scholl
In her remarks, Scholl explained that she has been involved with AFSP since 2017, when she participated in a walk at Iowa State University to honor a very close high school friend, Jack, a student there who had recently died by suicide. She was a first-year student at the time, and she recalled how “my life flipped on me” as she grieved Jack’s death.
“As a new college student experiencing such a tremendous loss, I was very lost and did not know where to turn,” she said. “The support and help I received from everyone around me was incredibly helpful. I learned that it is okay to reach out when you need help, you are not alone.”
Want to get involved? AFSP Greater Central New York will host a Greater Ithaca Walk on September 9, 2023. Click here to register or donate. To volunteer with AFSP, click here.
When Scholl moved to Ithaca from Iowa last summer to start a new job at Cornell, she spent part of the 16-hour car ride researching the local AFSP chapter determined to explore holding a Cornell walk. Backed by AFSP Greater Central New York, Scholl and a team of Cornell students and staff members including Scholl’s co-chair Daniel Richter spent months organizing the event on the sprawling campus.
Alpha Gamma Rho
Also speaking at the event was Kathleen Stathopoulos, whose son Yiannis ’24, a third-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine student in the College of Veterinary Medicine, died by suicide last summer. He was president of the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, and worked at an animal hospital. Stathopoulos shared that Yiannis was a mental health advocate who sought to reduce the high suicide rate among vet school students.
Stathopoulos said her son was known for his self-assurance. The 24-year-old was an avid body builder who loved to ski, golf, fly his drone, ride his motorcycle, and attend Mets games. “Yianni, above everything, loved his family,” she said. In the weeks before he died, he had rescued two kittens and a rabbit and nurtured them back to health. Yiannis’s death, she said, seemed to come out of the blue.
“Yianni was active, he was engaged, he was involved,” Stathopoulos recalled. “He was a person who was alive. He smiled an infectious smile. I had no idea that Yianni had any kind of suicidal thoughts. His family had no idea, the closest of his friends, his teachers and administrators, they had no idea. Everybody was shocked.”
She added: “When they came to Yianni’s memorial in Brooklyn, people said, ‘Yianni? Not Yianni. Yianni had it all. He was living the dream. How did this happen?’ But it did happen.”
Stathopoulos said that while Yiannis projected strength, he appears to have been very good at hiding behind that image. “How could a person who’s looked at like a Greek god, so confident, now say to people, ‘I’m having a problem. I feel like I might do something to myself.’ That would be shattering the image. Yianni had that image and protected it. If Yianni could have just realized it’s okay not to be okay. Mental illness is just like any other illness. It’s not a character flaw.”
Yiannis’s mother urged the students participating in the walk to seek mental health support if they are struggling. “If there’s anyone out there thinking that something’s wrong, if that bully in the brain is telling you you’re not good, fight it, tell somebody, tell a professional, tell a friend, tell a loved one. Talk to somebody. It will help.”
Another speaker was Scott MacLeod, whose daughter Sophie ’14, a senior in the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, died by suicide in 2016 at age 23 while on a health leave of absence from Cornell. MacLeod described how his family and friends established The Sophie Fund in Ithaca to advocate for improved mental health support for young people, including students at Cornell and other local campuses.
Why We Walk
Some of the comments written on the Cornell walk’s “Why We Walk” banner:
“All our loved ones we have lost, and to those who keep fighting each day. You matter and are not alone. My Dad, my hero.”
“For Sam, my best friend.”
“For the Czymmek family and in the loving memory of Will. We are still here for you.”
“For Chris. You are loved!”
“For Greg and his family, and everyone who struggles.”
“For all the student athletes and those struggling.”
“For my mom’s struggle.”
“For my brother Kyle, and all those who suffer.”
“For my trans siblings, I love you.”
“For Dong Hao.”
“Never stop fighting!”
Laurie Conlon, Jessica Withers, and Co-Chair Daniel Richter
Cornell Women’s Volleyball Team
Carolina Baquerizo, Alayzha Turner-Rodgers, and Hannah Van Bergen of the College of Veterinary Medicine
Hope Walks Here
Have a Real Conversation
Hope Walks Here
Cornell walkers raised $11,692.32 for AFSP educational programming and research
If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 9-8-8, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.
National Suicide Prevention Month may be ending on September 30, but the need to support people experiencing a mental health crisis is more urgent than ever.
After a dip in 2019 and 2020, the suicide rate in the United States increased nearly 4 percent in 2021—47,646 deaths, up from 45,979 in 2020, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The rate for people age 15-24 rose 7 percent. Overall suicide rates have risen more than 30 percent in the past two decades.
Some good news: Seeking help became easier in 2022, with the introduction of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. 988 has been designated as a new three-digit dialing code, similar to the simple-to-remember public safety hotline number 911.
The Lifeline provides free and confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, seven days a week, across the United States. You can also connect to the Lifeline if you are concerned about a loved one, friend, or colleague.
988 calls go to into a nearby crisis center, one of 200 across the country. When people call or text 988, or connect to chat online, they will be connected to trained counselors that are part of the Lifeline network. Trained counselors listen, understand how the caller’s problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if necessary.
NOTE: The previous Lifeline phone number (1-800-273-8255) will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.
The Lifeline has been proven to be effective. According to its administrator, numerous studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor. Calls to the Lifeline have soared 45 percent since 988 was introduced in July.
The Lifeline is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and administered by Vibrant Emotional Health.
Warning Signs for Suicide
Take a moment to review the warning signs for suicide, as provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). Be sure to get help for yourself or others if you see the signs. You may save a life.
According to AFSP, something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. This is of sharpest concern if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, loss, or change. Most people who take their lives exhibit one or more warning signs, either through what they say or what they do.
Warning sign: Talk
If a person talks about:
Having no reason to live
Being a burden to others
Warning sign: Behavior
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
Withdrawing from activities
Isolating from family and friends
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions
Warning sign: Mood
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
Some 300 participants raised more than $60,000 in the 10th Annual Greater Ithaca Out of the Darkness Walk on September 10 organized by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Greater Central New York Chapter.
Ithaca Out of the Darkness Walk at Myers Park
The walk, which took place in Myers Park in Lansing on the edge of Cayuga Lake, is among 400 or so held across the country every year designed to raise awareness and collect funds for research, training, and programming. The walkers included many people who lost a loved one, friend, or colleague to suicide.
This year’s Greater Ithaca walk was held on World Suicide Prevention Day. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The event surpassed the chapter’s $55,000 goal by more than $5,000.
“Suicide is preventable, and suicide prevention begins with all of us,” event Co-Chair Crystal Howser said in remarks at the event.
“By showing up today, you are sending the message that mental health is as real as physical health,” she added. “You are sending the message that reaching out for help is the strong thing to do. You are showing others that suicide can no longer be swept under the rug.
“By showing up, you let others know they are not alone. Because of you, we can fight for a day when no one will die by suicide.”
Event Co-Chairs Crystal Howser and Amber Parker
Howser shared that she began her journey after losing her father to suicide in 1998, and has lost other loved ones since then.
“These are just a few of the reasons I will continue to fight, to give a voice to those that may have lost their own, to help those that have lost a loved one heal, and bring hope to each and every person I meet along the way,” Howser said.
She said that the walkers honored the memory of those lost to suicide. “I also want to acknowledge those of you who have suffered personally from suicidal thoughts,” she added. “We are so glad to have you here with us in this fight. Your presence and openness allow others to know they are not alone in their struggle.”
This year’s walk included teams from Maguire Automotive, Alpha Gamma Rho at Cornell University, Ithaca College Women’s Lacrosse, SVNTA National Honor Society, CrossFit Vertical, among others.
The walk was sponsored by:
CFCU Community Credit Union; The Strebel Planning Group’s Strebel Fund for Community Enrichment; Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service; Maguire Automotive; BorgWarner Inc.; Northeast Pizza and Bones; Ithaca Apartment Management/Solomon Organization LLC; Moore Family Farm; Cayuga Medical Center; Visions Federal Credit Union; Lansing Funeral Home; Cayuga Lake National Bank; Tioga State Bank Foundation; and Ongweoweh Corp.