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Walk aims to take mental illness ‘Out of the Darkness’
Suicide walk poster

Seemingly, there’s a certain stigma surrounding mental health issues that doesn’t come attached to most other maladies.

“Suicide is a very heavy issue and there’s a stigma surrounding it,” said Cal State Stanislaus graduate student Alexandra Rosas-Ruiz, who is helping to organize the inaugural Stanislaus State Out of the Darkness Campus Walk on March 29 at the CSUS stadium, corner of Geer Road and Christoffersen Parkway. “There’s a lack of knowledge around the issue and we’re speaking up about it. I want to help smash that stigma.”

The event will begin at 4 p.m. with a resources fair. The walk — the route still is being finalized — will take place at 5 p.m.

The event is free to the public and serves to help raise awareness for the work of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

The CSUS event is the first campus walk for the 14-county California Central Valley chapter of the AFSP, which extends from San Joaquin County to Kern County.

Currently, the closest campus walk is held at Sacramento State.

The local chapter for AFSP has community walks in Modesto, Fresno and Bakersfield.

“This is our inaugural year and fundraising isn’t the primary goal,” said AFSP California Central Valley board member Barbara Chiesa. “Having the walk and raising awareness is the primary goal.”

According to Chiesa, all members of her board are suicide-loss survivors. She knows firsthand the stigma associated with suicide.

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve wanted to put up a flier, and the minute I tell people it’s for suicide awareness, people struggle to respond, they unconsciously back away,” said Chiesa. “They’re not trying to be rude, it’s just such a loaded topic. It’s uncomfortable.”

According to, statistics reveal that Stanislaus County averaged more than one suicide per week in 2018.

“That’s a public health crisis,” said Chiesa.

Rosas-Ruiz heard about the chapter’s efforts to create a campus walk locally, and knew she wanted to be a part of it.

“I really felt called to do this,” said Rosas-Ruiz, a Southern California native who received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and is working toward a master’s degree in social work. “I immediately dropped the other (master’s) project I was working on a started a campus committee.”

To learn more about the Stanislaus State Out of the Darkness Campus Walk, visit Or, visit the local chapter’s Facebook page at