The Keene State College campus is bringing light to darkness by teaching students about suicide prevention and sharing hope with those who experience depression. 

On Tuesday, April 11, the Fire Up The Night event will be taking place on the L.P. Young Student Center lawn. According to the KSC website, there will be live music, guest speakers and fire dancing from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.. 

KSC counselor and co-organizer of the event Brenda McEachern said the fire at the event is used as a representation of positivity seeping through the darkness of the night. “We used the symbolism of the night time as the depression and the darkness and the troubling times, and the light is the hope and we can reach through the darkness and have light,” she explained. 

KSC junior and french major Lisa Shea said that she knows people on campus who suffer from mental illness and she sees how it affects them. “I know how depression can affect the success of my friends. I feel like people don’t understand how important it is to support people going through a tough time because having a really solid support system makes a huge difference in the way people perform in school,” she said. 

She said mental illness is hard to deal with at college because you lack the support system of your family. 

“I think a lot of college students struggle with depression because most people turn to their family when they feel anxious. Not having a support system like that at school is a huge struggle,” she added.

Sophomore communications major and film minor Nolan Rourke said it’s hard for people to talk about depression because people may be afraid of the judgement they receive. “When I’m going through a hard time, I find it hard to reach out to people because I don’t want to be seen as weak. Once I get over that feeling and vent to someone, my anxiety goes from like a 10 to a three,” he said.

Tables of information and some interactive activities will also be provided for students. Student organizations such as KSC Pride, Common Ground and Active Minds will also set up tables during the event, McEachern added. 

Attendees will be offered a chance to pledge to “Share hope. Save a life.

”This is the third time the Fire Up The Night event has taken place on campus. According to McEachern, the Counseling Center applied for a PepsiCo grant and received $1,400 to fund the event. She said all the money will be used this year to ensure Fire Up The Night is bigger and better than the ones that took place during previous years.

McEachern continued by explaining how the event provides hope for students who are struggling with mental health issues. 

At the same time, it educates the community in how to provide hope for those struggling with depression. 

“The event reaches out to students who do struggle with mental health and lets them know hope exists… and [it’s] also for people who might be in a healthier state of mind, to empower them to recognize that they have really special roles to be able to offer and provide that hope to the people around them,” she said. 

The event encourages students to talk about the uncomfortable subject of depression and suicide, McEachern said. 

Having conversations about mental health allow students to acknowledge that it’s a standard issue many struggle with. 

“There’s a stigma about mental health… I hope that people will start talking more about mental health, more about depression, more about suicide. There’s so often that sense of shame and sense to hide it,” she said. 

The more that depression and suicide are addressed, the more comfortable students will feel talking about the subject and the more likely it is for people to get help, McEachern added. 

It’s important for college students to learn about suicide prevention because “suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students,” McEachern said. 

“Certain factors like stress [and] anxiety is a huge factor for college students… that oftentimes increases symptoms of mental health.” 

She added that at this age, more serious forms of mental illness begin to show up, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. 

McEachern said she wants this event to help students understand the importance of positive support systems and how it affects the community. 

“I hope students can… open themselves up to the concept of how powerful hope is, in providing it and receiving it. We really can save a life,” she said. 

Fire Up The Night is sponsored by the KSC Counseling Center and all students are welcome to attend. 

Students seeking emotional support can contact the Counseling Center or go to their office on the third floor of the Elliot Center to schedule an appointment.

Ashley Arnold can be contacted at aarnold@kscequinox.com