Non-profit organization sets out to help youth struggling with mental illness


CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) – While suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 6 to 17, the National Alliance on Mental Illness says it has launched a new program that will focus efforts specifically on young people.

NAMI Charleston is a primarily volunteer-run organization serving the community through outreach programs and daily support for families and friends of people with mental illness.

NAMI Charleston Executive Director Robert Aitcheson said that due to the high rate of suicide among young children, their organization is working to launch a new program called Speak Loud Project.

Aitcheson says the pandemic has caused more mental health problems among young adults in the Lowcountry and he says suicide rates are increasing.

The Speak Loud project aims to provide a way for younger people to network outside of a treatment facility and give them the opportunity to engage in peer support. Aitcheson says it will hopefully help those in pain to readjust to their homes.

“Talking to young people, going to school and offering after-school programs is really important because they are our future,” said Aitcheson. “And we want them to continue a dialogue, an open dialogue about mental health. Because it’s the same as physical health.

Aitcheson says they want to work with local hospitals, call centers and more.

The program should be launched in a few months, but it depends on fundraising and participation.

Those who wish to get involved can do so and find more resources on the NAMI website.

Aitcheson said the plan is to host events for the Speak Loud Project at the St. Julian Divine Community Center located at 1 Cooper Street.

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