On Sunday, a new Registered Student Organization (RSO) “Friends 4 Friends” hosted their first annual Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention Walk on The Green that included speakers, live music, games, free food, raffles and much more.
Friends 4 Friends is a new organization on campus that was founded in September, 2017, after the loss of student Connor Mullen to suicide. His friends started the club to raise awareness about mental health as well as the quality and quantity of mental health resources on the university’s campus. The club is dedicated to honoring Mullen’s life as well as other lives that were lost to suicide.
“We started Friends 4 Friends in September in honor of Connor. We lost him to suicide in September 2016 and after he passed we got together and we talked about where things went wrong, and how we could’ve been a better friend,” enior Kelly Marzoli, Friends 4 Friends events coordinator says.
The event started with guest speaker, Dennis Gillan, a mental health advocate and motivational coach who dealt with the suicide of his two brothers. Gillan’s goal is to save lives by combating the stigma around mental health. Three university students also stood on stage and shared their stories and journeys with mental health, followed by a 5K walk around The Green.
“In general, in the college environment, we live in surface level conversations,” Marzoli says. “We need to take the time to talk about how we feel and the things we’re going through. We wanted to have an event for this topic at a magnitude that has never been before. We wanted to start a campus wide conversation, accumulate an event, add the hype, get the word spread on campus and then get people to actually see the event come to life.”
Other students shared why they joined Friends 4 Friends and why they feel it is an important addition to campus.
“I joined to improve the quality and quantity of care on this campus, erase stigma and show it’s cool to care about each other and talk about what’s going on in your life,” senior Sam Tumminello says.
According to senior Kelly Snyder, the club began a needed conversation around mental health, saying the club challenged individuals to question their attitudes and not judge others off the bat.
“I think mental health issue awareness is improving even more since Friends 4 Friends [started on campus],” Senior Julia Jeannette says.