Miller School Supports Suicide Awareness and Prevention at Out of the Darkness Walk

Nearly 1,300 relatives, friends and colleagues of people who have died by suicide gathered on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus Sunday for the Out of the Darkness walk, sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The Miller School’s Team Iacino, walking in memory of Richard A. Iacino, the Dean’s Chief of Staff, brought together more than 100 people dedicated to raising awareness of suicide and strengthening efforts to prevent it.

“We lose someone to suicide every 15 minutes in the U.S. — and the rates are going up,” said Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “We have lost more veterans to suicide than to combat.”

Nemeroff, who is president of the South Florida Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, was joined by Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, as honorary co-chair of the walk.

“The statistics don’t tell you the full story,” Dr. Goldschmidt told the crowd. “They become real when you lose a dear friend.”

The Dean expressed gratitude for the programs Iacino created at the Mailman Center for Child Development, the Comprehensive AIDS Program and the Center on Adult Development and Aging, and praised his service as chief of staff to three Miller School deans. Dean Emeritus Bernard J. Fogel, M.D., joined the Sunday morning walk.

“Dick Iacino, we will never forget you,” Dr. Goldschmidt said. “This walk I commit and dedicate to you for everything you have accomplished in your life.”

Because suicide is now the third leading cause of death among people ages 14 to 24, a new screening program is being established for UM students who might be suffering from depression or other mental illnesses, said Lorie F. Simmons, Florida Southeast Area Director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“There are two groups of people here today,” Simmons said in welcoming the walkers. “There are the ‘good hearts,’ who understand that mental illness is a medical illness and recognize that more voices will help those who do not yet understand this to get it.

“And there are the ‘broken hearts.’ They are here to continue their healing process and find closure, and they also understand how important it is to have their voices heard.”

Gail Haldeman, director of the Medical Wellness Center and captain of Team Iacino, expressed the feelings of many of the “broken hearts” from UM, eager to help make a difference.

“I walked because I was so devastated by the loss of my close friend. I felt helpless and suddenly very lonely and I needed to do something that could possibly help someone,” Haldeman said. “At the walk, I looked around and saw a wave of people affected by suicide – that they have felt the horrible pain too. Maybe together we could make a difference in someone’s life. It still makes me cry when I think how much Dick was silently suffering.”

Contributions to the Out of the Darkness community walk will be accepted until Dec. 31. To make a donation, visit the Miami-Dade County Walk website.

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