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Howard Hall to host Walk for More Tomorrows to promote mental health awareness

| Thursday, April 11, 2019

Howard Hall will host the third annual Walk for More Tomorrows event Thursday evening. The walk was started by former Howard Hall resident Phoebe Natalie, who graduated in 2018, to raise awareness for mental health issues and suicide prevention and to provide support to those affected. Attendants are encouraged to donate with all proceeds going to the Suicide Prevention Center of St. Joseph County.

Junior Erica Vossen, a co-commissioner for the event, said the event is relevant to each member of the Notre Dame community.

“I think every single person on this campus in one way or another is affected by mental illness whether it’s them or a friend, whether they know it or not, or a family member, and yet it is one of the least talked about conversations,” Vossen said.

Photo Courtesy of Grace O'Connell

Howard Hall residents speak to students about the prevalence of mental health issues during last year’s Walk for More Tomorrows.

Fellow event co-commissioner and former Howard Hall president junior Grace O’Connell said this year’s event will look a bit different than in years past.

“In the past, we’ve had a mini track set up outside on south quad and people would take two laps,” O’Connell said. “This year we’ve decided to do an actual walk.”

The walk, which is co-sponsored by the student-run club Active Minds, begins at 5:45 outside of South Dining Hall on Thursday evening. Participants will walk around St. Joseph Lake with candles behind a banner each of them will sign. The walk concludes at the Grotto, where participants will leave their candles with prayers, Vossen said.

Campaigning for the event began two weeks prior to its culminating walk with a whiteboard campaign outside both North and South dining halls. Written on the whiteboard were the words “I walk for” and students were given the opportunity to complete the sentence. Much of the whiteboard campaign is chronicled on the event’s Instagram page.

Some students wrote names of people they knew personally; others, their dorm communities or the larger Notre Dame community, O’Connell said.

There were also events hosted in Howard Hall the week leading up to the event. On Monday, there was a candlelit mass hosted with the special intention of the walk, and on Wednesday the hall hosted Dr. Megan Brown, interim director for the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being, who spoke on mental health, compassion and helping friends in need, Vossen said.

The overall goal of the walk, O’Connell said, is to create a sense of unity in the Notre Dame community surrounding mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

“I think it’s an issue that doesn’t get talked about a lot because it’s such a hard conversation to have, but it’s so important to start,” O’Connell said. “We want Notre Dame to have that sense of unity where we can all have this difficult conversation and know that we all walk together.”

Vossen said her own journey has inspired her desire to provide support for the Notre Dame community.

“For me, having my own mental health journey, it really became apparent to me how isolating it can feel when you’re walking through something and you don’t have anyone to talk to,” Vossen said. “It’s okay if you’re struggling. … It’s okay if you’ve dealt with someone who’s struggling or you’ve lost somebody because this is something that we can stand together [for] and grow in understanding [of] and compassion and love to fight this.”

While Vossen and O’Connell hope for fifty participants in the actual walk, students will also be able to take yellow ribbons from the share table in Howard Hall to pin on their backpacks to show support.

In the event of rain Thursday evening, the event will take place in the Sorin Room in LaFortune Student Center.

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