Ethan Lam / The Daily Gamecock

Vigil provides solace for students affected by suicide

A diverse group of students, faculty and staff gathered at Rutledge Chapel on Thursday evening to remember students lost to suicide and offer comfort and solace to those affected.

Speakers from different corners of campus life, from University President Harris Pastides to a student who lost her best friend to suicide, shared often deeply personal stories as well as words of hope and encouragement.

"Let me say that all of us are wounded in some way ... and it is our goal to let everybody know that when we are wounded, and feel wounded, and feel alarmed, and feel anxious, and feel depressed that there is somewhere to go," Pastides said in his address.

April Scott, USC's associate director of Campus Mental Health Initiatives, also spoke about the resources available to students in crisis or those that believe someone they know is in crisis. She highlighted the university's counseling and psychiatry services as well as stress management and suicide prevention programs.

Pastides echoed a similar sentiment but also said USC needs to expand its mental health services.

"It is in fact my personal and the university's mission to provide counseling and services in sufficient quantity and quality to serve every student, professor and staff member," he said. "I'm not here to claim that we're already there, and we will continue to build and to hire so that we can take care of people in a timely way."

A 2017 study found that 10.1 percent of USC students have "seriously considered suicide" in the last 12 months. The same study indicated that depression rates among USC students rose from 3.8 percent to 10.8 percent from 2010 to 2017.

Multiple student speakers shared their own experiences and those of their loved ones dealing with mental health and suicide. 

The event culminated in a moment of silent reflection as attendees guarded the flames of their candles against the lingering remnants of the day's rain on the Horseshoe. 

"I really felt like our student body as well as faculty and staff came together ... I feel like this is a good way to lay the foundation of community around our university," fourth-year mass communications student Corbin Landers said.

Landers was one of the organizers of Thursday's vigil. 

"I just hope that people can walk away feeling safe, secure, connected, supported and cared for," he said.

Landers worked closely with the Graduate Student Association, mental health awareness organization Active Minds and USC's Student Government to put together the event. They were inspired after the death of a student in Gambrell Hall in October.

Third-year experimental psychology student Katie Cohen, who serves as SG's secretary of health and wellness, was also part of the organizing team.

"A lot of people were thinking of having this event at the same time ... we all kind of had this idea at the same time," she said.

Cohen is optimistic that the vigil had a positive impact on those who came out for the event.

"I hope that [attendees] know that they're supported and know that there are resources for students that are struggling."

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