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A path to recovery

Students paint "kindness rocks" on March 13 to raise awareness of suicide and to support the Furman-based Out of the Darkness Campus Walk.

Sydney Wright ’18 keeps a special rock in her apartment. Painted on its smooth surface is the word “cont;nue” with a semicolon in place of the letter “i.” It serves as a reminder that life is meant to be continued, not cut short — as in a sentence that has more to say following that bit of punctuation.

Wright came across the rock during an Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in 2017 sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. At mile 15 of the 16-mile trek in Washington D.C., Wright was so exhausted she was ready to give up. That’s when she spotted the stone that would inspire her to cross the finish line.

Furman students display assorted messages painted on rocks to support those at risk of suicide.

But that’s not where her story began. At age 15, and suffering from depression and wrestling with family issues and general high school pressures, Wright tried to take her own life. She called her father, who lived across the country, to say goodbye, but, she recalls, “the hurt in his voice made me realize I didn’t want to die — I wanted help.”

Her mother took her to the hospital, and she began medical treatment and psychological therapy. That night, Wright’s journey to recovery began.

“In high school, I thought I was crazy, and I didn’t want anyone to know what I was going through,” she said. “Peers only knew I was missing school because I was sick. But I learned that mental illness is much more common than I thought. I just hadn’t heard about it because of the stigma surrounding it.”

Since then, Wright who volunteers with the AFSP, established a Furman-based Out of the Darkness Campus Walk, a 1 1/2-mile walk that took place on Sunday, March 24.

The walks are designed to engage youth and young adults in the fight to prevent suicide, which claims more lives each year than war, murder and natural disasters combined. The walks, which take place at campuses throughout the U.S., also serve as the AFSP’s signature student fundraising events.

Kappa Kappa Gamma is a co-sponsor in addition to the Paladin Peers, who, with the assistance of Heller Service Corps, painted 500 “kindness rocks” to line the walk route around Furman lake.

Tracy Davis, operations assistant at Timmons Arena, leads the Paladin Peers, a program aimed at supporting and encouraging the Furman community with service projects, motivational seminars and opportunities to connect with others. Messages like “be amazing,” “hope,” “love,” “joy,” “you matter,” “live a great story,” “you can,” and “breathe” are some of the sayings inscribed on the stones.

“I was so excited for the opportunity to bring this awesome cause to my alma mater,” Wright said. “I want to start a conversation about mental illness at Furman. I also want to provide a community for those who have either personally struggled with or who have lost someone to suicide.”


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