Fire Up The Night is an event that has been held annually at Keene State College.
Fire Up The Night was held in the Young Student Center lawn from 8:00 to 9:00pm. Wednesday, April 16, and is designed to help raise both suicide and depression awareness. The event included a fire dancer, free food, candles to light for loved ones lost to suicide, a table for painting inspirational rocks to leave around campus, ect.
Fire up the Night not only raises suicide and depression awareness but it gives students an opportunity to get up on the mic and share their struggles and experiences with suicide and depression. Students attending the event were repeatedly encouraged to talk to counselors if they feel depressed, suicidal, or just need someone to talk to.
Keene State Assistant Director of Clinical Operations Dr. Mac Brown was asked for a brief description of the event for students who weren’t able to make it, “This was the fourth annual event for Fire Up The Night, the event is about raising awareness for depression and suicide and more importantly about hope in dark times for people that are going through challenges. So for people who didn’t get to come tonight, there was an opening speech from Keene State President Melinda Treadwell, because when she was an interim president here last year she had the really hard job of informing parents of students who had completed suicide. And we have students come up and talk about their experiences and challenges they’ve had to overcome. We always have a fire performance because fire is a symbol of hope and light, and rebirth. We also have several local organizations come as well to provide information and resources.”
Keene State Mental health counselor and Licenced Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) Brenda McEachern worked with Dr. Brown to run the event, and was asked the same question. “It’s about creating care in the community, not only for people who are struggling from despair themselves but also paying attention to the people around them too so we can be a more caring and supportive community,” McEachern said.
McEachern was also asked about the stone painting activity held at the event. She commented, “Last year it became an activity where people would decorate or paint rocks with inspirational words or phrases, to be left in public places around campus in hopes that if somebody is needing a little inspiration that they’ll find it and keep it for however long they need it, then go put it somewhere new for someone else to find. The hashtag we came up with for it is #KSCROCKSHOPE.”
Brown said the event matters to him because, “For me I’ve definitely had friends who have struggled with depression and suicide, more recently a college friend of mine has been struggling and she fortunately reached out to myself and other friends and we were able to help support her to get the help that she needed, she’s not out of the woods, but she’s actively doing what she can to support herself and it helps to know she has a team of friends around that love and support her.”
McEachern said, “Mac and I have different teams at the counseling center, and the team that were running along with a few other people is depression and suicide prevention. So a big chunk of our work is coming up with programming, such as events like these. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and in New Hampshire the numbers have gone up significantly. It’s a real problem and we can’t prevent suicide if we can’t talk about it, and it’s one of those things people aren’t comfortable talking about because they’re afraid of being judged or being a burden on other people. We’re trying to get talking about it to become more common so we can address the problem instead of just shoving it under the rug.”
Lastly, Brown commented, “This event is one of many that we try and hold. Earlier this year we held a film screening of ‘The S Word’ documentary film, we brought the film director here to have a panel discussion afterwards. So this is not the only event we do, but I’d say it’s the largest we hold, and we’re always looking for more ways to get the message across, provide the needed information, and normalize the conversation about suicide. There will definitely continue to be more events and we always look to create and add new ones for the future too.”
For those who are looking for help, or need someone to talk to, please visit the counseling center and make an appointment to meet with a counselor. Talking about it can make a world of difference, and don’t be afraid to reach out on someone else’s behalf, it may save their life. Because of the emotional and private nature of the event, students weren’t interviewed to respect and maintain their personal privacy.
William Patti can be contacted