The Aiken County Coalition for Suicide Prevention was only an idea a few months ago. Now it is a reality.

“The group has remained pretty solid, which says to me that there is a real interest and commitment to stay involved,” said Lisa Tindal, executive director for Mental Health America of Aiken County.

Mental Health America and The Aiken Center, an addiction services provider, organized a meeting in May to look at the possibility of restarting a suicide prevention coalition locally.

Representatives of the Aiken County Public School District, Aurora Pavilion Behavioral Health Services, Aiken County Sheriff's Office and a number of nonprofit organizations showed up. Also present were Aiken County Coroner Tim Carlton along with suicide survivors and those who had lost loved ones to suicide.

There have been monthly meetings ever since. The group has an official name, and its members have worked together to come up with core values and mission and vision statements.

The coalition's goal is to eliminate suicide in Aiken County through education and collaboration. Last year, there were 35 suicides compared to 19 in 2011, according to the Aiken County Coroner's Office.

Tindal said the coalition is getting ready to examine what sorts of suicide prevention programs and efforts already exist in Aiken County.

Providing services to the elderly is another priority.

“There doesn't seem to be a whole lot being done to address the problems of seniors who struggle with depression and may think about suicide,” Tindal said.

The organization's members plan to recruit medical doctors, pharmacists, psychiatrists, religious leaders, teenagers and caretakers for the elderly.

However, “we want the coalition to be open to anyone who wants to come along with us and try to make a difference in lowering the number of suicides,” Tindal said. “We have some people who have lost someone to suicide, and they are strong voices.”

For more information, call Tindal at 803-641-4164.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.