On Sept. 30, a suicide awareness walk was held in memory of Sincere Melvin, a 2018 Mt. Hebron graduate who passed away in mid-July. The walk, which was organized in part by his mother, Lashanda Whaley was arranged through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and took place at Lake Elkhorn. The walk was also backed by Mt. Hebron’s Active Minds Club, which is devoted to advocating for mental health.
The AFSP organized the Out of the Darkness Walk in order to raise money and awareness for mental illness and suicide. In total, the event raised over $80,000, surpassing the financial goal. The money raised will be used to fund studies on mental illness. The walk opened with speeches, including one recognizing Whaley, focusing on the numerous families affected by suicide in attendance.
Pins and other items were distributed to attendees in order to spread awareness and support for the cause. Color-coded beads were also given out, indicating each attendee’s connection to suicide or mental illness.
Residents all over Howard County attended the walk, some walking in groups in honor of other loved ones lost to suicide. Numerous Mt. Hebron students and alumni gathered and walked in memory of Melvin.
Senior Ria Kapoor, one of Melvin’s friends and founder of Mt. Hebron’s Active Minds, stated that the walk is important “because it offers a chance for people to heal, to grow, and also a chance to raise money for a cause that’s important and to get the word out there that we aren’t alone, that mental illness is here, and we’re going to break the stigma around it.”
Melvin attended a few Active Minds meetings and was friends with the group members. Kapoor reminisced, stating that Melvin was “a very kind person. He’d always joke around, and he’d always be there if I wanted Chemistry and Math help.”
Due to the personal connections many members of the club had to Melvin, the Out of the Darkness Walk meant more than just awareness.
According to senior Sumaa Sayed, a member of Active Minds, raising awareness about mental illness “starts a conversation. Once you start talking about it, then you get more comfortable with it, and eventually it’ll become a normal conversation almost.”
Sayed continued, “As a club we try to promote mental health awareness and suicide prevention type of stuff, and also we’re trying out this new thing of stress-relieving activities.”
Ellie Gustafson, a 2018 Mt. Hebron graduate and another friend of Melvin, noted how compassionate and humorous of a person he was.
“It was the little things he did to make sure others knew somebody cared for them that made such an impact on everyone who knew him,” Gustafson said.
It seems as though “Sincere” was a fitting name for the late Melvin.