The 12th annual Walk Out of the Darkness in Columbia drew a crowd to the State House on Sunday to honor those who have died from suicide and those who have survived it.
The crowd marched from Boyd Plaza on Main Street to the State House, then back again.
Among the speakers was Emily Torchiana, a 22-year-old student at the College of Charleston. Torchiana said that due to experiences while she was in high school, she tried to overdose on pain medication after her senior year, while starting college.
“When I was struggling back in high school, I thought I was the only one that was feeling that way,” Torchiana said. “So events like these and organizations like these let you know that you’re not alone and that there are people that feel the same way you do – and that there’s support for you.”
Also among the speakers was S.C. Department of Mental Health State Director John Magill.
“To know that every 16 minutes, someone suicides in the United States, it just gets me in the gut,” Magill said. “To know that suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24, that also is a gut-wrencher for me.”
Many of those who walked in memory of others, or to honor their own struggles, left pairs of shoes on the State House steps.
Helen Pridgen, S.C. area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said that each pair of shoes represents a life in South Carolina – either that of someone who died or of a survivor. Lexington Interfaith Ministries will distribute any shoes that weren’t taken back after the ceremony to folks in need, Pridgen said.
Those looking for resources can check out the American Society for Suicide Prevention at www.afsp.org, the National Alliance on Mental Illness at www.nami.org, Mental Health America at www.mentalhealthamerica.net and the S.C. Department of Mental Health at www.state.sc.us/dmh.
For those in crisis, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has counselors available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.