The Ohio University LGBT Center paid somber respects to those affected by suicide Monday night by hosting a vigil at Emeriti Park.
The event, which fell on World Suicide Prevention Day, honored the late Andrew Williams, a student at the OU Zanesville campus who died June 30 at the age of 23. The LGBT Center, Bobcats Who Care, OU Active Minds and the Southeastern Ohio Rainbow Alliance co-sponsored the event.
The service began with an address by the LGBT Center director delfin bautista – who uses they/them pronouns and the lowercase spelling of their name – who explained what it’s like to live with clinical depression. They relayed that they left graduate school briefly and checked into a psychiatric unit to prioritize their mental health.
“I share my story not for sympathy, but to hopefully reflect upon the fact that I kept living,” bautista said. “It’s not easy – but hopefully folks will be reminded that they are not alone."
bautista acknowledged feeling exiled from faith traditions and the lack of ability to express gender in ways that felt authentic when they were young. They said living with a mental health issue is not a defect and should not be a cause of stigma.
Friends of Williams were also among speakers at the vigil, who gave advice to those who may be struggling with mental illness and to bystanders who may be affected by it.
The final portion of the service was dedicated to each attendee’s personal connection to suicide. Matches were struck and candles were lit, and names of those taken by suicide were written on slips of paper and burned to ash. The flames cast a soft glow in the darkness, capturing the mood of the evening: somber, with a flicker of hope.