WJBF – September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and each year, leaders in the CSRA come together to map out the plan to provide help and services to those who struggle with mental health.

Nearly 50,000 people committed suicide in 2021, which is the most recent year on record at the CDC.

Local organizations in South Carolina are making sure people have access to the help they need. 

“One in five people experience a mental health disorder in a given year. If you’re experiencing a mental health disorder, it’s going to impact your ability to function,” says Tamara Smith, Executive Director for Aiken Barnwell Mental Health Center.

Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon says South Carolina leads with being 10th in the country with the most suicide deaths, and event leaders say education is vital. 

“We want to make sure that we educate and create that awareness in our communities so we can remove that stigma. The biggest thing is to be able to create that awareness so people are comfortable starting those conversations,” says Andrea Gregory, Aiken Councilwoman and the Director Of Business Development for Aurora Aiken Regional Medical Centers. 

Which is why Executive Director of Mental Health America of Aiken County, BonnieAnne Fulghum, says the Aiken Barnwell Suicide Prevention Coalition aims to reach more and more people each year. 

“The prevention of suicide and suicidal thoughts is so important to our community. We have a local crisis line, we have 9-8-8 in place, but it’s important to have our community leaders come together and have the same goal in mind, which is saving lives,” says BonnieAnne Fulghum Executive Director of Mental Health America of Aiken County.

Students from the area had the chance to share stories they wrote about situations in which children and teens face mental challenges.

“If someone is seeking a psychiatric emergency, then they can reach out and call us,” says Smith. 

If you call the number 988, a 24-hour suicide crisis and lifeline member can help you with your needs.

And if you’re someone living in Aiken and Barnwell County areas, the South Carolina Department of Mental Health offers a mobile crisis helpline at 1-833-364-2274.