Being mindful of your mental health is just one more way to stay healthy, and there are resources in Aiken County to help if needed.

“We all want to strive to be healthier,” said BonnieAnne Fulghum, executive director of Mental Health America of Aiken County, mentioning eating better as an example.

“The brain controls everything that we do, say, think, how we act,” she said. “Why wouldn’t you want to take good care of your brain?”

Fulghum said mental health is anything that is going to affect the mind, including pain or illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.

“If you’re in a room, basically one in five people have a mental illness. So it’s so encompassing that it’s staggering, and people are very shy and very reluctant to share the fact that they have mental illness,” she said.

Fulghum said there’s a stigma attached to mental illness, and there shouldn’t be. It should be no different than having diabetes or a heart condition, she said.

The brain controls everything about us. “It should not be a shame or something we hide away,” Fulghum said. “It should be something that we can really talk about and say ‘Hey, you know, I have this issue, can I get help, or will you listen to me?’"

Mental Health America of Aiken County is part of the local Suicide Prevention Coalition, and they also have a suicide bereavement group that meets.

Fulghum said she believes the suicide rate is what it is today – 14.2 per 100,000 individuals in 2018, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – because a lot of times people are afraid to share that they’re having a problem.

They “think by removing themselves the problem goes away, but what they don’t understand is the people who are close to them love them, and by them taking that choice away and removing themselves, it’s more hurt and pain and devastation that’s left in the wake of that,” Fulghum said.

"If they had just told or shared with somebody that they were having issues, it might could have been solved before it got to that.”

Aiken Barnwell Mental Health and Aurora Pavilion are two other mental health resources in Aiken County that Fulghum mentioned, as well as the 2-1-1 phone line that points people in the right direction for health.

“Don’t be ashamed to need help,” Fulghum said. “It is OK to not be OK, particularly in 2020,” she said, mentioning the COVID-19 outbreak.

Help is available in Aiken County:

Mental Health America can be reached at (803) 641-4164. Aiken Barnwell Mental Health is at (803) 641-7700, and Aurora Pavilion is at (803) 641-5000. The Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.

Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. Follow her on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges.