In just four years, the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at Coastal Carolina University has raised more than $35,000, and this past year raised $17,270, the most of any other participating university in South Carolina, including the University of South Carolina ($12,034) and Clemson University ($7,095).
According to William Kinney, the Out of the Darkness Walks administrative assistant, a total of 178 campus walks were held nationwide during fiscal year 2017-2018, and CCU was 21st on the list of walks as far as funds raised.
“We are so proud that we did something that was so unexpected and raised more than any school in South Carolina! We are just the little engine that could,” said Chris Donevant-Haines, the assistant director of Wellness Outreach and primary organizer of the event.
The primary goal of the walk is to increase the dialogue about emotional health topics and decrease stigmas surrounding mental and emotional health, said Donevant-Haines.
“It’s easy to reach students who are involved in campus life to talk about resources and encourage watching out for each other’s health and well-being,” she said. “But I have a personal goal of finding more ways to reach students who feel disconnected and may not be involved. This walk can give many students who may be suffering in silence a voice and a sense of being part of our CCU family.”
The walk this year was held on March 24, and every walk is open to the public. More than 300 people registered to walk for this year’s event, another event record, and Donevant-Haines said this year was the first time the event had corporate sponsors in Lighthouse Behavioral Health Hospital of Conway and Beachside Electrical Design LLC of Myrtle Beach.
“It’s important to get people talking about mental health issues, and [the walk] is one way that we can educate and start a conversation,” said Donevant-Haines.
CCU has also implemented online resources for student emotional health and wellness and counseling services, including Therapist Assisted Online (TAO) and ULifeline, an online resource for college mental health.
TAO allows students to complete free modules and self-help exercises privately and follow-up with a counselor as needed. The modules are available 24/7 and via smartphones, so students have the flexibility to complete them on their own schedules and in their own space. Students meet with a counselor prior to accessing TAO, said Donevant-Haines, so they can be intentional and involved in directing the students to the resources they need.
Another self-help and resource portal will be available this fall through CCU’s LiveWell Office that is a comprehensive program relating to college life.
“The benefit of programs like these is the convenience for students having resources at their fingertips that are easily accessed, free and comprehensive related to their unique college experience,” said Donevant-Haines. “Some students may be looking for multiple things, others may need help with just one thing, others might just want to check it out. These programs have the potential to reach all students where they are as individuals.”
The LiveWell Office also hosts a variety of events across campus each academic year, from Sexual Violence Awareness Week to Love Your Body Day.