By Laura Hayes, Staff Writer
Furman students find themselves swamped with final projects, tests and labs in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Break, but sophomore Sydney Wright made time to make suicide prevention awareness a priority.
Every year on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, cities all across the United States and the world host outreach events as part of the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day to provide loss survivors, those who have lost loved ones to suicide, with a safe, supportive space to grieve as the holiday season begins. Wright has been involved in the event for many years, but in 2014 the day was given a new meaning for her.
“I had already been planning this event when I lost my friend [to suicide], but that event just inspired me even more to keep going with it,” she said. “Now I do it in his memory.”
As event chair for her hometown of Aiken, S.C. branch of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, Wright helps organize the event which of a screening of the documentary that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention releases each year for the event. After the screening, there is a group discussion, in which anyone can talk about any thoughts they have about the video or about their own loss.
“It is a very small event, since it is typically very emotionally difficult for survivors to get up that morning and show up,” Wright said. “This year, I had 15 attendees, which is the most I’ve had in my three years of planning. It may seem like an insignificant number, but for what the event is, this is fantastic.”
While International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is important to those who have experienced loss, it can be very emotionally taxing as well.
“You really have to understand where you are in your own grieving process and figure out if it will be too much,” Wright added. “When I began planning, I hadn’t yet lost someone to suicide. Ever since the death of my friend, this event has been a lot harder on me.”
Even with the emotional toll of the event, Wright said she could always count on the support of her friends, family and the Furman community.
“My thirteen-year-old brother even offered to volunteer,” Wright said. “This is a cause that is very important to me, and I have had many friends, family members, professors and even strangers applaud me for my efforts.”
Wright’s passion for helping others is one of the main reasons why she enjoys planning the event.
“By having this group of survivors, I’m not only able to help other people with their grieving, but they are able to help me,” she said. “Just because I’m the event chair doesn’t mean that I have everything emotionally together all the time. Sometimes I need to be able to let go and cry and remember my loved one, and this is a safe place for anyone to do that.”
Through the yearly event, Wright hopes to not only provide a safe place for survivors of suicide loss to grieve and help the community understand what they are going through but also to encourage others in the community to get involved in a cause they are passionate about.
“I started planning this event when I was only seventeen years old, and to this day, my committee consists of high school students,” Wright said. “You can make a difference, no matter how old you are.”