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New Valdosta organization aims to raise awareness on suicide prevention

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 9:38 PM EDT
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 10 to 34 and a new non-profit organization in Valdosta is working to raise awareness during National Suicide Prevention Month.

United2Prevent is a new organization with a mission to help prevent suicide, raise awareness on the issue and de-stigmatize mental illness.

A new organization is helping raise awareness about suicide prevention in Valdosta.
A new organization is helping raise awareness about suicide prevention in Valdosta. (United2Prevent)

In 2018, Taylor Powell’s life forever changed when her boyfriend took his life.

“It was not something any of us saw coming. Unfortunately, there was no way for me or his family to know and try to prevent it. It just... one minute he was here and the next, he was gone,” said Powell.

Powell said she was presented with the idea for the organization and knew it was her purpose and that she wanted to share her story and help the community.

Now, she connects with others who have lost loved ones and is helping those who are suffering.

“It’s not what you want to do to your family. I’m living proof that it’s not the way because the last three years, it’s taken everything I can do to move on and you don’t ever really move on. You kind of just pick up the pieces and now I’m living as an example for him and trying to honor his memory in doing this,” said Powell.

A new organization is helping raise awareness about suicide prevention in Valdosta.
A new organization is helping raise awareness about suicide prevention in Valdosta. (United2Prevent)

Dr. Charlene Blache, the chair of the organization and owner of the Southern Pediatric Clinic, said that working with children, suicide has always been a topic of concern for her. She said she discussed the issues she had noticed in patients with Leah McMillian, a counselor in Valdosta and the vision for United2Prevent was born.

“We want to make a difference, we want people to know that they do not have to choose suicide as the solution to their problems because it is the final solution. There’s better solutions. Help is available,” said Dr. Blache.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of patients seeking help for mental health-related issues has been alarming.

McMillan, who owns and is a clinical therapist at EnSpire Counseling and Wellness, said she’s seen an increase in people contemplating suicide, psychiatric hospitalization and loss in the community due to suicide.

“Here locally trend-wise, we’re seeing an increase in ages from 16 to 24. We’ve hospitalized more adolescents in the last 18 months than honestly, I have seen in my career,” explained McMillan.

COVID-19 and social isolation have played a big role, but so do relationships, family issues, addiction, social media comparison, self-confidence and identity issues.

“I wanted to help bring the community together, bring professionals together, bring loved ones together to process and help other people understand the epidemic that is coming from suicide and to help others choose to live,” said McMillan.

United2Prevent has started participating in different community events to help spread the word.

“They matter, they’re not alone and we’re here for them,” said Dr. Blache.

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