Local residents, agencies are joining forces to fight suicide

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Holding hands(WRDW)
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 3:17 PM EDT
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AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - People and organizations in the CSRA are coming together to help prevent suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.

Suicide walk set Sunday in Aiken

Volunteers from Aiken County are joining the quarter of a million people who are walking in towns across the United States to draw attention to the fight for suicide prevention.

The Out of the Darkness Aiken Walk, hosted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention SC Chapter, will be held Sunday at the H. Odell Weeks Center. Registration will begin at 1 p.m. and the walk will take place from 2-4 p.m.

The walk will support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s education and support programs and its goal to reduce the annual U.S. rate of suicide 20 percent by the year 2025.

“Suicide touches one in five American families. We hope that by walking we will draw attention to this issue and keep other families from experiencing a suicide loss. Our ultimate goal is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide,” said John Tjaarda, area director, SC Chapter.

The Out of the Darkness Aiken Walk is one of more than 550 Out of the Darkness Overnight, Community and Campus Walks being held nationwide this year. The walks are expected to unite more than 300,000 walkers and raise millions for suicide prevention efforts. Last year, these walks raised over $21 million for suicide prevention.

Phone line expected to raise awareness, support

Across the Savannah River, Georgia has completed the first phase of planning for its implementation of 9-8-8, the new number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

9-8-8 is expected to increase awareness and access to support for individuals in a mental health crisis. The easy-to-remember, three-digit dialing code is slated to go live on July 16.

Establishing 9-8-8 as the “9-1-1″ for suicide prevention and mental health crisis services is expected to make it easier for Georgians in crisis to access the help they need and decrease the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health.

The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is responsible for responding to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline calls and coordinating services and support for Georgians who seek help through the line.

Once implemented, 9-8-8 calls from Georgia will be routed through the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, which was established in 2006 to provide around-the-clock support to individuals in crisis.

The state agency submitted its initial plans to federal partners, which were informed by a broad range of stakeholders who are involved in responding to mental health crises: emergency responders, healthcare providers, and advocates, individuals with experience with mental health disorders, and entities serving special populations.

The planning coalition, which was assembled in April, will continue to inform Georgia’s planning process and ensure there is statewide coverage for 9-8-8 response.

If anyone you know needs help related to mental health, substance use, or intellectual and developmental disabilities immediate assistance is available at 800-715-4225.

Several resources are available for veterans

Also involved in efforts to prevent suicide is the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta.

“Even the strongest of veterans need help sometimes,” said Dr. Robin E. Jackson, Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center director. “Whether they’re looking for peer-to-peer support, clinical care, or counseling, Charlie Norwood VA and community resources can help Veterans through life’s challenges.”

If you’re a veteran struggling with mental health or suicidal concerns, ways to reach out include:

  • Exploring Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center’s Mental Health service by talking to your VA provider or call 706-733-0188, Ext. 6237
  • If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the Veterans Crisis Line to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text 838255, or chat online at
  • Visit Make the Connection, where more than 600 veterans and family members share their stories of strength and recovery.
  • For veterans transitioning from the military, VA Solid Start connects them with representatives who call three times during the first year of separation to walk them through benefits available to veterans.
  • The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans offers free, confidential counseling 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Veterans do not have to be registered/enrolled in VA health care.

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