Senator Katrina Shealy (middle) and Dr. Kennneth Rogers (left) lead the South Carolina Suicide Prevention Coalition. (Screenshot by Holly Poag)

Gov. Henry McMaster’s office has declared September 2022 as National Suicide Prevention Month in the state of South Carolina.

The announcement came during a meeting of the Suicide Prevention Coalition at the S.C. Statehouse complex Wednesday.  

South Carolina takes suicide seriously, advocates say.

The state’s efforts are the first globally to use trauma-informed care to help eliminate suicide, said Jennifer Butler, the director of the state’s Department of Mental Health Office of Emergency Services.

“We are first in the world,” Butler said. “We are making change in South Carolina. We took the proactive step to also institute universal safety planning.” 

Universal safety planning creates a safety plan for at-risk persons to use on “dark days.” The plan helps them know how to take care of themselves when having suicidal thoughts. 

The coalition, headed by Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington County, meets quarterly to discuss strides made in suicide prevention in the state. Government workers, Lexington Medical Center employees and advocates for suicide prevention attended.

In 2020, suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in South Carolina, according to the governor’s office. There are more than 16,000 suicides annually nationwide.

Lexington Medical Center has been recognized as a Suicide Prevention Champion by the National Office of American Suicide Prevention because of the number of staff members qualified to help those at risk.

The medical center has 545 staff members, representing 42 clinics, who have completed suicide prevention workshop training. 

“Nowhere else in the country had a state step forward and said, ‘Everyone needs access’” to help, Butler said. 

The meeting also recognized the state’s efforts to help South Carolina military veterans transition from service to civilian life.

Are you having a mental health emergency? Text HOPE4SC to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

“Hope lives in South Carolina,” Butler said, “This is a fact, because of all of the ‘hope champions’ of our state.”

4 tips to help someone in need. Graphic by Holly Poag

Suicide was the 12th leading cause of death in 2020 in SC.