Hope for Life candle vigil event shines light on personal challanges

Waynesburg University’s Suicide Prevention Week concluded with the “Hope for Life” event Thursday, Sept. 9,  in Roberts Chapel.  A candle vigil on the chapel steps preceded the event.

Since the alumnus who was supposed to speak did not show up, Nathan Altman and Chaley Knight, Waynesburg University counselors, had to adjust, shifting  the event to a learning opportunity. 

With only eight people in attendance, including members running the event, the evening took a more personal approach. Students were able to share their feelings without judgement. 

“My happiest days are my saddest nights. The thought of being truly happy scares me,” said Makala Blasko, freshman psychology major.

The night started with an intense discussion on the window of tolerance: the state where one feels most effective in their everyday life. In this state leaning into discomfort may seem frightening; however, embracing it can help a person move past their difficulties. 

The event was focused on acknowledging the challenges one faces.  Understanding one’s emotions creates an awareness, allowing for potential healing to take place. 

“This is why we tend to enjoy music,” Nathan Atman, B.S. Psychology and M.A. Counseling, said. “We all have songs to bring [our emotions] up or down to get what we need.”

Around 8 p.m, everyone gathered outside of the chapel to write letters to the people in their lives who may be struggling with suicide. They lit the steps with candle-lit paper bags with their letters inside. 

Although the event didn’t go as planned, Chaley Knight, B.A. and  M.A, felt the evening was a success.

“It’s hard to be vulnerable with people you know … It’s hard to be vulnerable with people you don’t know,” Knight said. 

Despite the difficulties, some students were able to reflect and share their own experiences:

“Although suicide has effected us differently, we all are uniting under the common goal, prevention,” Danika Reed, junior nursing major and vice president of the RPG club, said.

“I checked myself into a psych ward December of my junior year of high school because I wanted to commit suicide. The only reason why I hadn’t was because someone dear to me was in the car with me when I contemplated it,” Clarrissa Pearce, freshman psychology major, said. “The more you talk about it the less scary it gets.”

“When I was 13 years old, my best friend told me she was going to commit suicide. I got her help,” Abigayle Geisel, freshman psychology major, said. “Rock bottom isn’t the end. There’s only so low you can go, but you can go infinitely high.”

The “Hope for Life” event was followed by the screening of “Good Will Hunting” in Johnson Common Friday, Sept. 10. This event acted as the official conclusion to Waynesburg’s Suicide Prevention Week. Now that the week is complete, the Counseling Center will evaluate the student’s responses towards the events. 

“We are open to feedback from students. Students know what they need,” Knight said.