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As the windy flurries cleared up on a cold, late-March day, a crowd gathered in front of JMU’s Atlantic Union Bank Center (AUBC) for a mile-long trek.

To raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health resources, JMU held its 10th annual Walk for Hope on March 26 with over 350 participants braving the Chilly weather.

“[With] issues like mental health, for people to see that they’re not alone is so important, ”President Jonathan Alger said. “Walking together creates that sense that we’re all interconnected.”

The event was organized and ran by the JMU Counseling Center, with attendees meeting at 1 pm to begin an approximately half-hour walk around the East Campus. It was open to the greater Harrisonburg community, in addition to the JMU Faculty, staff and students.

“We weren’t sure… what turnout to expect between [the] Pandemic and [the] weather and everything, so we were really encouraged and excited that we had such a turnout this year, ”said Janice Lewis, a JMU counselor who Assisted in organizing the event.

After the walk, participants re-entered the AUBC to hear a speech from Greg Vogt, a suicide attempt Survivor and author of the book “The Battle Against Yourself.” Vogt is also a professional speaker for Active Minds, a national nonprofit that focuses on mental health for young adults, and members of JMU’s Active Minds club introduced him before his speech. Vogt recounted his diagnoses with anxiety and major depressive disorder and his hesitation to seek help with his mental health.

“The baggage was too rough,” Vogt said. “I felt like a burden.”

After two suicide attempts in high school, Vogt was placed in long-term care at a mental health treatment facility for about a year. While they said they experienced extreme fear and doubt during the process, treatment allowed him to return to a functioning level where he could “experience Joy again.”

“This was never the help I wanted, but this was the help I needed,” Vogt said. “I had to put down my pride, my ego, and say, ‘This is what I need.'”

While Vogt received he still struggles with anxiety and depressive “ruts,” he shared a realization that changed his mindset with the audience.

“Our lives tend to flow in the direction of our strongest thoughts,” Vogt said.

Following Vogt’s speech, attendees were encouraged to set up a variety of tables set up to represent mental health organizations like the JMU Counseling Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The Counseling Center also provided crafts like button making, painting and a self-care kit station.

Diana Glakas, a second-year JMU Graduate student studying at school counseling, got the most impactful part of the event for her was seeing familiar faces and fellow Graduate students in attendance.

“I work with Greek life, so it’s been really powerful to see members of that community here… seeing [Vice President for Student Affairs] Tim Miller, [and] seeing People’s families, ”Glakas said.

Alger received appreciated seeing Faculty, staff, students and other community members join together for the Walk for Hope.

“This [event] has staying power, ”Alger said. “The issues aren’t going away, but neither are the people.”

Contact Sarah Foster at foste4sc@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.

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