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Group gathers in Columbia for ‘Out of the Darkness Walk’ to bring awareness to mental health

Published: Oct. 24, 2021 at 5:27 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 24, 2021 at 6:34 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Group gathers in Columbia for ‘Out of the Darkness Walk’ to bring awareness to mental health

A group took to the streets of Columbia for the ‘Out of the Darkness’ walk to raise awareness for mental health.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the state, according to the CDC.

More than 500 people registered to walk and organizers said that even more people showed up to the event on Sunday afternoon.

The walk was organized for people affected by suicide to come together and offer hope, healing and connection, especially after 18 months of enduring the pandemic.

Kaitlyn Burroughs, 12, and her mom attended the walk and said that the support is what helps them get through the day.

Kaitlyn is a suicide attempt survivor.

“It means everything to me that after what happened, they’re still here to support me and do this for mental health and everything,” said Kaitlyn. “It’s just amazing. I love them so much.”

John Tjaarda, Area Director for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) said that losing someone to suicide is a unique type of grief.

“They go through anger, they go through hate, resentment, loss, sadness, grief, all kinds of things,” said Tjaarda.

Another organizer said that events like ‘Out of the Darkness’ are important because they show those impacted that they are not alone.

In the past six months, suicide lifeline calls have gone up by 200-300 each month, according to Jennifer Butler, President of SC ASFP.

She says Lexington and Richland counties are in the top ten South Carolina counties with the highest suicide rates.

“There are more resources in South Carolina since 2020 for mental health and suicide prevention than we have ever had,” said Butler, “Resources are only as good as how often we talk about them and how often we use them.”

South Carolina is the only state in the country that has an online mental health, self-check questionnaire that allows people to talk in real-time to a mental health professional.

There is also a unified mobile crisis system for all 46 SC counties that you can call in to. Two therapists will come on the site and perform a psychiatric assessment. That number is 1-8333-DMH-CCRI.

The SC Hopes Program, started in 2020, pays up to $15,000 for therapeutic services.

If you’re looking for a way to help those affected, you can volunteer to become a trainer or host a training, by reaching out to the Department of Mental Health.

Butler says that’s a way to make sure each call from our state is answered by a South Carolinian; someone who knows information regarding the resources available for state residents.

“You don’t have to be a mental health professional to save a life,” said Tjaarda. “You can be a friend, you can be a family member, you can be a complete stranger on the street who just asks somebody how they’re doing and you can safe that life.”

To reach the Columbia suicide prevention hotline serving Calhoun, Fairfield, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Richland Counties, call (803) 790-HELP. For the national hotline, call 1-800-273-TALK.

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