The Religious Affairs Office in collaboration with the post's Suicide Prevention Program held its first Chat and Chew event to kick off Suicide Prevention Awareness Season June 26 at the Fort Jackson Main Post Chapel.

The Chat and Chew; a free event, provided attendees the opportunity to speak openly about suicide and its effects on community members within a safe environment with trained professionals who are able to facilitated and monitor the conversation.

Alijournal "Ajaye" Franklin, suicide prevention program manager for Fort Jackson, kicked off the conversation with a question "As a group when we think about suicide, what kind of things should we be discussing?"

David Bennett, Fort Jackson's Army Substance Abuse Program's prevention coordinator, cautioned against possible glamorization of celebrities taking their own lives.

"You can see by the numbers of the hotline (that) when we have a celebrity that dies, the numbers go way up because people - especially young people - see the celebrities as people who are doing the right things and feel it is okay to follow their actions," he said. "Because of this glamorization, suicide seems to be becoming something that is starting to be accepted in our culture; maybe."

Enrique Mcclymonthbal with the 81st RD SPPM, spoke on the absence of indicators that are taught during suicide prevention. "One of the biggest things is when you train on suicide, we are looking at certain indicators."

Mcclyminthbal said we must look past those indicators to help reduce suicide.

Some people like celebrities, may not exhibit those indicators, he said. They may be living good and still commit suicide, "so we have to look deeper than the typical indicators we are taught to look for."

Helen Pridgen MSW, LMSW South Carolina Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said the goal of the Chat and Chew is to get people talking about suicide safely.

"We are now talking about it and there are people that need to know that it is safe to talk about it," she said "There are people who are feeling this way and they need to know that it is okay to find someone to talk to; that their life is important; their life is precious, and they need to talk about it.
Pridgen added the normalization of suicide is not what we want to do.

"We believe through AFSP that we have to create a culture that isn't normalizing," she said, "we don't want to normalize suicide. We want people to know that they can be safe in talking; because talk saves lives."