On Wednesday, April 11, Keene State College students and faculty gathered on the student center lawn for Fire Up the Night to light candles and speak out in solidarity to symbolize the importance of being a light through the darkness that is depression.
KSC Counselor Brenda McEachern said, “If we were to turn all of these lights off, inside the building and outside, the outside – this darkness – would be representative of depression and suicide… this is really important to be talking about and that’s why we are here. Because we really want to encourage open dialogue for people to talk about depression and suicide.”
Interim President of KSC Dr. Melinda Treadwell stood and spoke on the topic as well. During her speech, she asked that the attendants share a moment of silence for those students who were lost to suicide this past year. “This has been probably the most difficult part of this year for me,” Treadwell said.
Her message touched on the importance of liberal arts in that it makes one a better person. She said how difficult it was to call the parent of a deceased student, and how important it is for everyone to care for one another. “I stand before you tonight to implore all of us to care more about one another and, every day, when we are on campus, to reach out to the other people that we encounter – that we touch – and make sure people are ok.” Treadwell said.
Fire up the Night had many attractions, including food, candle lighting, fire dancing and a time allotted to facilitate open dialogue where students could come up to the stage voluntarily to speak about their past experiences with depression.
KSC first-year Erin Scussell was one of those students who stood and spoke.
She said during an interview with The Equinox she attended the event because she has dealt with mental health issues, to support her friends and because of the importance of remembering those who have been lost to suicide. “I think those should not go unknown or swept under the rug,” Scussell said.
Scussell said at her high school, there was a stigma surrounding the topic of suicide, which led to silence. “There was a lot of issues [with] suicide and everyone was afraid to talk about it.” Scussell said, “I’m excited about events like this [that] shed light on everything that’s happened and what we can do better and be supportive of people who’ve lost their lives.”
During her speech, McEachern said there are many, even at KSC, who suffer in silence. “What we are going to be asking you to do is to bring hope to people around you.” McEachern said. “There is nothing shameful about depression.”
In an interview with The Equinox, Treadwell said, “…we need to be able to be honest and confront depression, confront sadness, confront stress and actually do so from a place of the heart and a compassionate community…”
Treadwell said her hope for events like this is to make KSC known as a community that cares and a community that recognizes every life as important.
Sebastien Mehegan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org