Organization looks to spread suicide awareness

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The Mississippi Alliance to End Suicide group put on its first ever 'Lean on Me' music festival.

Suicide survivors got on stage and told their stories to the crowd. This event was put on in hopes of educating and spreading awareness to prevent future suicides. Many people find themselves avoiding the conversation about the ongoing problem that is why the organization wanted to put on this event.

"It's difficult and gets emotional, but you just have to learn to talk about it. Once you do, you will get more comfortable,” says organization president Vickie Winslett.

This event was dedicated to Rhonda Blanks son, Justin, who died in January of 2015. Blanks says suicide is something that needs to be talked about with everyone.

"We want to get the message out about suicide. The word is such a taboo word and nobody wants to talk about it. We need to discuss it. We talk about everything else in our society but suicide. We need to be open with them and speak to our children and families. Talking about it and communication is the number one key,” says Blanks

Local artists and choirs performed and several booths were set up with suicide awareness consultations and mental health information. Leaders of the organization want to encourage everyone to be conscious of others and look for the signs.

"If you see someone that you notice signs in, talk to them, ask them the right questions. Direct them where they need to go. It's very important to ask the person, are you having suicidal thoughts,” says Winslett.

If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, you can call the national hotline at 800-273-8255.