AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — The Aiken-Barnwell Suicide Prevention Coalition hosted its third Suicide Prevention Summit at the Lessie B. Price Aiken Senior and Youth Center on Thursday.

The goal of the summit was to bring various mental healthcare groups in the county together to bring awareness to suicide prevention strategies. 

These groups aim to lower suicide rates and take away the associated stigma of mental healthcare. 

“Our world is a desperate place and people are seeking help,” said Bonnie Anne Fulghum, the chairman of the suicide prevention coalition. “I think that this is just a perfect way to give people the tools they need to reach out to people who are in crisis.”

A report from 2020 shows Aiken County has the second highest suicide rate in South Carolina, and the CDC says there is a death by suicide roughly every 11 minutes in America.

“Many, many years ago I taught school, and sadly lost a few students to suicide,” said Andrea Gregory, the vice chairman of ABSPC. “[It was] very impactful, so I kind of jumped on that mission to get awareness out.”

Mental health examinations should be also be a part of primary care check-ups, Gregory said.

Many of the attendees said new technology and social media have contributed to the rise of mental health problems, especially among teens.

“Tik Tok, all these platforms are very harmful to youth and make kids more mentally unstable,” said Kenneth Jones, the chief medical officer at Rural Health Services.

The main point that the speakers at the summit wished to portray was that it is never too late to ask for help and to focus on one’s own mental health before trying to help others.

“Mental health is not a disease, it’s not a sickness – it’s something that everyone has,” Jones said. “Don’t be ashamed to ask for help.”

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 988.