Each October and early Novemeber a series of walks called "Out of the Darkness" call attention to the problem of suicide in South Carolina. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the state and the nation, but among South Carolina residents aged 15-34, it's the second.
Helen Pridgen, statewide director of A.F.S.P., the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said 838 South Carolinians were lost to suicide in 2017, the most recent year from which statistics are available. She said the most common method of suicide is, as one would suspect, firearms.
"In the nation, over 50 percent of people who die by suicide use a firearm. In South Carolina, it's over 60 percent, and among veterans, over 70 percent."
A.F.S.P. board member Jenny Morales became familiar with the Foundation and walk after she lost her daughter to suicide. "I was feeling very alone, like I was the only one that was dealing with ...this type of loss....It just gave me comfort to know that I wasn't alone."
Now Morales seeks to help others through A.F.S.P., and listed some signs that a person might be considering suicide:
"If they actually speak of killing themselves, feelings of hopelessness, having no reason to live, or maybe feeling like they're a burden to others. Some will actually start giving away belongings. If you notice any of these warning signs with a friend or loved one, guide them to help. Speak to a counselor, speak to a parent. But defninitely take it seriously."
She said communication can help prevent suicide, but acknowledged that broaching the subject can be difficult, "But sometimes it's as simple as asking someone how they're doing, how they're feeling. Have they had any thoughts of harming themselves. And sometimes people will speak up, they'll tell you how they feel. If not, just stay in constant contact with them."
Pridgen said it's critical to be aware of what a friend of family member is going through, and to talk to that person and let him or her know that there is hope.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Out of Darkness Walks
Columbia - Oct. 27, 2 p.m., Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park
Walterboro - Nov. 2, 9 a.m., Colleton County Museum and Farmers Market
Hilton Head/Bluffton - Nov. 10, 1 p.m., Oyster Factory Park, Bluffton
Aiken - Nov. 10, 2 p.m., H. Odell Weeks Activity Center
- More information and registration at afsp.org/WalkSC