Students Walk to End Mental Illness Stigma

Umttr members and other students walking with Baker at the event.

Photo Courtesy of Gabriella Baker

Umttr members and other students walking with Baker at the event.

By Kyle Emery, Sports Editor

In memory of their father who they lost to suicide six years ago, junior Gabriella Baker and her sister, freshman Gina Baker, led a team in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s (AFSP) “Out of the Darkness Walk” on Oct. 22.

The walk aims to raise money for suicide prevention and to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide as well.

“When I opened up my team page on Oct. 4, it was a big step for me because I was revealing what I had kept hidden from everyone for years,” said Gabriella, who is a UMTTR officer. “I was afraid to tell people for some reason, perhaps because of the stigma that surrounds suicide and mental disorders, but stepping out of the shadows is the only way to battle it and erase the stigma.”

Gabriella became a UMTTR officer this year as a “first step to becoming active in the fight” against suicide and her first step of becoming a “leader.”

After Gabriella announced that she would be walking, UMTTR immediately backed her up by helping with publicity.

According to AFSP’s website, their mission is to “reduce the annual suicide rate by 20% by 2025.”

Gabriella set up a team donation page in which people could contribute to her goal of raising $3,000 by the time of the walk. Her team ended up raising $3,300.

“Keep doing you, Gab,” said a $100 donor who remained anonymous on the donation page. “I’m so, so proud.”

Another anonymous donor’s comment read “Thanks for doing this.”

A group of fourteen teens and adults showed up to the walk for the Baker team in support of the cause.

“I feel so blessed with all of the compassion that I have received from doing this walk,” Gabriella said. “The caring messages that I received from sharing my past is what I had always dreamed of but didn’t think would come true because of the stigma that had always prevented me from speaking out. It means so much to me how so many people stood by my side in my most life-changing experience.”