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Letter: Rocks for Hope aims to promote positive mental health



AUGUSTA, Ga. – The mission of Mental Health America of Aiken County is to serve as an advocate and a community resource by promoting positive mental health in Aiken. May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

MHA Aiken County, formerly known as Mental Health Association of Aiken County, has played a vital role in the community since 1967. We are an affiliate of Mental Health America and work closely with MHA South Carolina. With more than 320 affiliates nationwide, Mental Health America works to improve the mental health of all Americans through advocacy, education, research and service, especially for the 54 million individuals with mental disorders.

MHA Aiken County offers programs like Welcome Baby, Nurture Home, Don’t Duck and our Lifesavers Club.

The fact is millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness. During the month of May, the entire nation comes together to raise awareness of mental health issues, fight the stigmas and educate the public through National Mental Health Awareness Month.

Rocks for Hope is an event meant to shine a light on these issues.

“If one person sees hope out of the darkness with Rocks for Hope, then all the work has been worth it,” said BonnieAnne Fulghum, executive director of MHA of Aiken County.

Rocks for Hope in Aiken began Saturday and runs through May 31. MHA of Aiken County has teamed up with local businesses around Aiken to hide rocks with messages of hope within the downtown shopping district, the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center and Hopelands Gardens. Anchored Youth Group, a local youth group from Grace Covenant Church of God, helped paint the rocks with uplifting messages.

We encourage individuals within the community to go out and hunt for the rocks for hope. Once found, we ask people should take a photo of the front and back of the rock, post it on social media and tag us. Please put the rocks back where you found them for others. The first three individuals to find 50 rocks will receive a gift certificate from a business in downtown Aiken. Our goal is to bring awareness about mental health to the community while doing an event the whole family can take part in and enjoy together.

Since COVID-19 began, the MHA of Aiken County team has received a higher volume of calls about suicide. Through the help of grants, the MHA Aiken team has been able to keep the phone lines open 24/7 for individuals who need to talk. Through the Rocks for Hope program, the goal is to provide a fun way to give people the hope they so desperately need to be able to talk and learn about positive mental health.

Anxiety and depression are the top mental health issues facing people today. We try to bring ways for people to de-stress and give them tools to help combat what is happening in the world today. One in five people suffer with these issues and they can cause other health problems as well.

The Rocks for Hope program does not cost participants anything but some fun hunting and posting what they find all around Aiken. We wanted to focus on hiding rocks in local businesses that have been hit so hard. So your first hint to finding rocks is to look in the downtown Aiken shopping area where many of the rocks can be found. When you visit Odell Weeks look for them there, as well as Hopelands Gardens as you stroll through the beautiful grounds.

During this special month, I hope that you will reach out to someone you know who may be struggling with mental health issues. The last year has been difficult and many could use a kind word, a shoulder to cry on or someone to hold their hand.