Mayor declares September as Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

County Mayor Russell Barnett officially proclaimed September to be Suicide Prevention Awareness Month Monday afternoon.

The proclamation comes after talking with Ms. Tennessee USA contestant Chesnie Cox, who is competing on a platform dedicated to mental health.

“I am working with the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network,” Cox said.

As a registered nurse who regularly works in the ER, she said roughly half of her patients come in due to mental health issues.

In her particular, her platform places emphasis on suicide prevention, a problem they said is the second leading cause of death among youth age 10-24 and the leading cause for youth ages 10-17.

“This is something that needs to be addressed,” she said.

Barnett said his time with Carter County Schools encouraged this proclamation.

“When I was on the school board, I did an anti-bullying program,” Barnett said. “It really took off.”

Cox said she is going to eight East Tennessee counties to petition similar proclamations.

In Kingsport, she said she has started a month-long series of programs in the city’s schools.

“Kingsport is doing a social media movement,” she said. “Every day they are going to do something.”

This movement will take the form of videos every couple of days and other programs, as well as spreading #Iwontbesilent on social media platforms.

She said suicide affects all levels of school-age children, however, not just middle and high school.

“The youngest we have had in the ER was eight,” Cox said. “This is very special to me.”

At the college level, she said Tennessee is the first state to legislate colleges into providing specific plans to provide suicide prevention programs, including increasing access to counseling services.

At East Tennessee State University, Cox said she is organizing a suicide prevention awareness walk on September 22.

“You can walk in a family member’s honor,” Cox said.

Barnett said when Cox came to her about the proclamation, he knew she had the inside knowledge into how serious the problem truly is.

“She has that inside look,” he said.

Cox’s next competition takes place on October 10 at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tenn.

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