Baylor Students' Waco-to-Alaska Bike Journey To Raise Awareness of Suicide Prevention Ends Successfully in Anchorage
Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - On July 27, Baylor University students Justin Brown, Alyson Erikson, Nathan Lloyd and Andi Nakasone rode into Anchorage, Alaska, the final destination on their 74-day, 4,500-mile bicycle trek from Texas to Alaska to raise awareness of suicide prevention and college students' mental health.
The Alive Campaign team will stay in Anchorage for the next few days, sharing their story with various groups and local and state officials, including Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, about how coping with the suicide attempt of a friend turned into a successful online campaign and bike ride to bring attention to suicide prevention. Alaska has one of the highest suicide rates in the United States, with the most deaths occurring in college-age men.
Later this week, the Alive Campaign team will head back to Texas in their support van. Baylor will host a welcome home celebration for the team at a later date.
The riders are:
- Justin Brown, a Baylor senior Russian and international studies major from El Paso, Texas, and Alive Campaign co-founder/rider
Alyson Erikson, a Baylor senior film and digital media major from San Antonio and Alive Campaign rider
Kyle Ferguson, a Baylor senior international studies major from Schertz, Texas, and Alive Campaign co-founder/rider (Kyle was unable to complete the ride due to an injury. He returned to Texas from Portland, Oregon, on June 27.)
Nathan Lloyd, a Baylor senior finance, economics and risk management major from Itasca, Texas, and Alive Campaign co-founder/rider
Andi Nakasone, a Baylor junior film and digital media major from Okinawa, Japan, and Alive Campaign co-founder/rider
The Alive Campaign began early last November, as the students coped with a close friend's confession at dinner that he had attempted suicide only the night before. A long conversation about what makes life worth living led to a vow to journey to Alaska to give their friend hope and a reason to live. The only catch was if they could garner enough support.
On Nov. 4, they launched a Facebook group called Four Guys, One Destination, One Mission: Suicide Prevention. If they could get 250,000 friends, they would carry out their "crazy idea" of a cross-country bike trek from Texas to Alaska.
Remarkably, they reached 300,000 friends in only 13 days. Their dream became the Alive Campaign, a grassroots organization dedicated to breaking the silence about suicide, and the team set out on May 15 to do just that.
Starting from the Baylor campus in Waco, Texas, the team has been sharing their mission of suicide prevention with churches, schools, universities, media, youth groups and fellow travelers throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska.
Since its beginning, the Alive Campaign's Facebook group has become a vital source of peer support for thousands of young people dealing with mental health issues. The team hopes to take its Alive Campaign to other universities, establishing a university chapter system under a central parent organization in Waco. Each chapter's mission would be to foster a peer support community and to continue spreading awareness and education locally, especially on high school and college campuses.
Alive Campaign team members also are QPR Certified Gatekeepers, taking the training course on suicide prevention offered through Baylor's counseling center. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer: how to Question someone about their suicidal thoughts, communications or behaviors, how to Persuade someone to stay alive and get help, and how and where to Refer someone at-risk to the next level of intervention.
They have received national recognition for their work. On March 11, the Alive Campaign made a national appearance on mtvU, as they hosted the music video show, Dean's List, and spoke about suicide prevention. They will host the show again, filming their segment this summer while on the road.
In May, The Jed Foundation, the nation's leading organization working to prevent suicide and improve the mental health of college students, awarded the Baylor students who created the Alive Campaign with the 2008 Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award, which includes a $2,000 scholarship.
The Jed Foundation established the annual award to recognize students who are using their time, talents and voices to help increase awareness about mental health issues, decrease stigma around these conditions and encourage help-seeking in the college population. The award was created through a contribution made by Carol Ullman and the late Joseph Greenspan, in memory of their son, Jerry Greenspan. More information on the award can be found at www.ulifeline.org.
Though their journey has ended, it will live on through film. During the ride, Erikson and Nakasone - both film and digital media majors at Baylor - have been working on a documentary that will focus on the power of friendship, adventure and the stories of those who have battled depression and suicide.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among college-aged young adults and is a tragedy that claims more than 32,000 lives each year.
Nearly 1.5 million people attempt suicide each year in the United States and hundreds of thousands each year are deeply affected by the loss of a loved one to suicide. Despite the scope of the problem, the issue is often shrouded in secrecy. Most people are not aware that suicide claims more American lives each year than homicide or HIV/AIDS.
During its 74-day ride, the Alive Campaign hoped to change that, making its mission to raise awareness about suicide prevention and to KEEP HOPE ALIVE.