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Staff Member Raises Suicide Awareness in NEPA (Web Exclusive)

Staff Member Raises Suicide Awareness in NEPA (Web Exclusive)

Caitlyn Hollingshead ’06, G'09

Director of Graduate & International Admissions

Caitlyn Hollingshead credits her mother for raising her and her siblings to be well-intentioned, caring people, but it was her experience at The University of Scranton that challenged her views on social justice and social awareness. “‘Being men and women for others’ really only became profound for me once I starting attending Scranton,” she says.

As chairperson of the board for the Greater Northeast Pennsylvania chapter of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Hollingshead has the opportunity to serve the community with resources on suicide prevention and awareness, as well as support survivors left behind by loved ones. It is a personal struggle for Hollingshead, one that her family has felt firsthand. Her husband’s first wife committed suicide, and “as an act of solidarity and support for him, I became involved with suicide prevention,” she explains.

While AFSP hosts a series of events to raise suicide awareness, including a Mom Prom in May, the chapter’s most prominent events are the “Out of the Darkness Community Walks.” After hosting a walk for several years in Wilkes-Barre, the chapter held its first walk in Lackawanna County in fall 2012. This year the chapter will be hosting six Out of the Darkness Walks in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“The attendance at the walks is overwhelming,” Hollingshead says. “It’s unfortunate that so many people have already lost someone dear to them, but they are there to ensure that it doesn’t happen to others.”

The key for the chapter is prevention and awareness, and “trying to get help out before situations get to a point of no return,” she adds. It’s why the new Lackawanna County walk – held last year on the city of Scranton’s courthouse square – is such an important addition to its calendar. In addition, AFSP believes getting the attention of politicians and local legislators is imperative to spreading the word of the program’s resources.

“The hard part is there is such a stigma with suicide,” says Hollingshead, who is also the club moderator for the Students for Suicide Prevention group on campus. “Many times it is very difficult to get the word out there. It is important to promote prevention in schools, but schools are just a first step. We must also work to reach others struggling, especially the elderly.”

For additional information on volunteering for the Greater Northeast PA chapter of AFSP, contact Hollingshead at GreaterNEPA@afsp.org or visit www.afsp.org/greaternepa.

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