Tech students host walk for suicide prevention

During the Out of the Darkness walk, participants will walk four laps around Tech Green. They will also attend a variety of events focused on raising mental health awareness afterwards. // Photo by Andrew Pietkiewicz AFSP

On April 21, students from all over campus will assemble at the Campanile outside the John Lewis Student Center and participate in the Out of the Darkness walk around Tech Green in solidarity with people struggling with mental health. The walk involves four laps around Tech Green, followed by speakers and events highlighting the effects of mental health struggles on students. 

Andrew Pietkiewicz, a second-year ISYE student at Tech, is leading the volunteer efforts to organize and promote suicide prevention around campus in cooperation with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). 

Based out of New York City, AFSP is an organization that advocates for research and suicide prevention. Its mission is to “save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates have increased by 36% between 2000 and 2021. There were 48,183 suicide deaths in 2021, which was about a life lost every 11 minutes. Furthermore, it was estimated that 3.5 million Americans planned suicide, whereas 1.7 million attempted it that year. 

Ever since its establishment in 1987, AFSP has connected tens of thousands of people who have lost a loved one. It also leads suicide prevention campaigns in hundreds of local communities and lobbies at federal, state and local levels to promote suicide prevention research and initiatives. Out of the Darkness is one of AFSP’s biggest initiatives to fundraise and engage youth in the fight against suicide. 

Out of the Darkness has been a staple event in recent years to garner support for mental health services and raise awareness around suicide prevention. Pietkiewicz plans to improve the event this year to make it more inclusive to the diverse Tech community and encompass established mental health resources. 

“We are trying to engage people from all parts of the Tech community. We have a team from SGA registered, we’ve engaged with alumni and we have people [who] work in local counseling centers attending,” Pietkiewicz said.

To get involved with the Out of the Darkness walk, students can register with an established team or support the movement as an individual. Students can register at

“Teams are not the only way someone could participate, so if you are interested in this opportunity, we strongly encourage individuals to come out, meet people and get connected. That way, you can also get engaged even if you don’t have a specific organization,” Pietkiewicz said.

Not only will the event have prizes like free Chick-fil-A sandwich vouchers and tickets to the Georgia Aquarium and Atlanta History Center, but it will also have meaningful activities recognizing all those affected by mental health struggles. 

“The honor bead ceremony is one of the most important recognitions of mental health struggles and serves to unify students who have been touched by this issue. [The ceremony] involves people picking different color beads and wearing each color as a symbolic meaning relating towards mental health or suicide,” Pietkiewicz said. “Each color bead is for someone who has lost a family member to suicide or someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts in the past or even LGBTQ mental health.”

The entire event connects the community and facilitates a supportive environment for all students in the tech community. “Our goal is to bring everyone together and recognize that we may have different connections to this cause, but at the end of the day, we are all … standing together,” Pietkiewicz said.

The campaign has raised just under $7,000 and is aimed to surpass $8,000 by the event day on April 21. Pietkiewicz said that 20% of the funds raised for the event will be used for the organization’s upkeep. The rest will sustain AFSP’s advocacy, policy and other programs. “That is a relatively high [percentage] number for charities,” he said. 

Standing in solidarity with people who lost their loved ones is the best way for the Tech community to help suicide prevention on campus, according to Pietkiewicz. He also wishes that prominent organizations on campus were more upfront about suicide prevention. 

“I think we need to recognize that it is a problem on campus and we can’t necessarily shy away from it,” Pietkiewicz said. 

Although there are many clubs for students to engage in and forge relationships, students can get weighed down by their classes and struggle to make friends they can turn to during tough times. 

“Connect[ing] with the individual and trying to prevent people from becoming isolated and making sure people find community at Tech is really important,” Pietkiewicz said. 

On an individual level, he urges readers to check in on their friends and let them know that you are there for them. 

“I would advise [students] … to reach out [and] don’t be afraid to … ask them how they’re really doing,” he said. 

Tech has various resources that students struggling with mental health issues can refer to. These services include psychoeducational screening and individual, group or couples counseling. Students can access these resources at or call 404-894-2575 to speak to a counselor; counselors are available for appointment, and staff members are available at all hours for crisis support.