By Cameron Enders
On Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022, Daemen held the first-ever walk for Jenny. A walk designed to promote suicide prevention awareness on campus and raise donations for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). The event was in honor of Jennifer McAlmont, a former student who unfortunately took her life back in 2014, and was coordinated by Health Services and Lois Foster, Jenny’s mother.
Students, faculty, and friends of Jennifer met in the Wick Social Room for a brief opening address from Senior VP Dr. Greg Nayor. When looking out at the crowd, Dr. Nayor said, “I am really kind of in awe at the moment at how full this room is. Standing is well over 200 people.”
“Suicide is a public health crisis. It is the twelfth leading cause of death in this country. 54 percent of Americans have been affected by suicide, and 90 percent of those individuals have had a mental health crisis,” Tiffany Rollek, Director of the AFSP’s Western New York Chapter, stated during their speech prior to the walk.
After another quick word from Dr. Nayor, Lois Foster took the podium to talk about their daughter, Jenny McAlmont. She spoke about the life of her daughter and the impact her death had on her. Foster also implored the audience to check in on friends and loved ones if anything seemed slightly off about them.
After the speeches were completed, attendees were given purple flowers and led out to the Reflection Garden, between campus apartments 101 and 76. Surrounding the Reflection Garden were four pots where attendees were directed to place their flowers. This was followed by a brief moment of silence while enduring the elements.
“It’s hard to put in words honestly. I meant what I said. The last time I saw it that full [the Wick Social Room] was when we did the memorial for her. And it was heartwarming is the best word I can think of to see that many people were there for that cause,” Dr. Nayor said when asked later about the attendance at the event.
In fact, the crowd that made the approximately five-minute walk to the Reflection Garden made it hard to find a place to stand during the moment of silence. The cold weather, combined with strong winds and rain, seemed to deter no one from showing their support for Jenny McAlmont and raising awareness about suicide prevention.
“Just being there in support of the situation. I just wanted, I guess, to show some support, you know, because I can understand that,” Tyreke Coal, business administration major (2025), said when asked about why they attended the event.
“I think actions speak louder than words. The amount of people that came today and were here to gather and to remember and to celebrate and to lean on each other for support is huge. So, I would say based on the numbers alone it was extremely successful,” Ashley Frazier, the director of the CHIP center and one of the key members who set up the walk, said about how they felt the walk achieved what it set out to do.
Yet the success of the walk can be measured in more than just attendance. According to the AFSP website, the total in-person and online donations for the walk reached $3,745. Which doubled the goal of $1,500 set by the team who set up the walk and blew away the website goal of $500.
The Walk for Jenny isn’t the only commitment that the university makes towards attempting to improve mental health on campus. The campus provides a 24/7 on-call system for anyone struggling, connections to mental health agencies on campus, wellness initiatives to promote awareness of mental health struggles, and finally CARE forms that can be submitted if you are concerned about a classmate.
“One of the areas that is so important to us in student affairs is mental health and mental health awareness,” Dr. Nayor said during his opening address before the walk. “I had a great privilege of seeing over the last year, last two years even, more and more CARE reports being filled out by students and community members about other community members.”
If you have any concerns about a fellow student’s mental health, please fill out a CARE form at https://www.daemen.edu/student-life/student-affairs/concerned-about-student. And if you are undergoing a mental health crisis or grappling with suicide, please text or call 998 to reach a trained crisis counselor.
And if you think you may need assistance with your mental health, go to https://www.daemen.edu/student-life/student-services/counseling-services to see if counseling is right for you and book an appointment. The counseling is completely free; it’s included in the cost of tuition; and you are able to attend 15 sessions per academic year.
If you are struggling with mental health issues, suicidal thoughts, or have attempted suicide, know that you are not alone. On and off campus, there are many resources for you to find help and get connected with people who care. And even if you do not feel comfortable doing so, just reach out to a friend or loved one. Suffering alone will never make anything better.