COLUMBIA — University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier will help launch the school’s first Out of the Darkness Walk on Sunday to raise awareness of suicide on college campuses and highlight resources for those who may be experiencing depression and other mental health issues.
Spurrier will join Dr. Meera Narasimhan, chairman of the USC School of Medicine’s Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science, the Rev. Frank Anderson of Lutheran Campus Ministry and USC student body president Chase Mizzell at the opening ceremony. Registration begins at noon with an appearance by Cocky and music by SoundCheck, USC’s oldest male a capella group.
Between 100 and 200 walkers are expected to travel a 2.4-mile path that will take them around the university’s Horseshoe to Sumter, Blossom and Pickens streets before ending at the Russell House, said Jennifer Myers, USC’s suicide prevention services coordinator. USC’s Gospel Choir, directed by Professor Carl Wells, will conclude the closing ceremony.
“At this point we have just over 100 people registered to walk,” Myers said Friday. She hoped that figure would double by Sunday, although the cold weather may be a deterrent to some. The walk is free but people are encouraged to donate. USC student coordinators also have rallied businesses to help support the cause.
Myers said Spurrier, like others who endorse the walk, wants to support young people and help them understand there is help for those mired in depression and other mental issues. Spurrier lost a former USC player, Kenny McKinley, to suicide in 2010, after he was injured while playing for the Denver Broncos and spiraled into depression and debt.
The walk raises money for the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, which has helped fund USC’s new Interactive Screening Program, an online tool that allows students to answer questions anonymously, then engage in dialogue with a USC counselor via email. The counselors are able to assess whether a student should come in for a face-to-face counseling session.
The New York-based foundation developed and customized the interactive tool for colleges and universities around the country to assist in identifying students who may be suffering from depression, stress or mental illness.
Other funds will go toward national suicide prevention research and assistance for South Carolina chapter outreach to high schoolers and college students.