Suicide Prevention Month: Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention board member Bridget McCarthy came together to proclaim September as Suicide Prevention Month in the city. Courtesy Photo


The City of Santa Monica has thrown its support behind opening up necessary conversations on mental health awareness

The City of Santa Monica has thrown its support behind opening up necessary conversations on mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

At the Sept. 12 meeting of Santa Monica City Council, Mayor Gleam Davis read a proclamation recognizing September as National Suicide Prevention Month. To further its efforts, the city has also partnered with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) to host the 2023 Out of the Darkness Walk on Oct. 21.

“It is important to speak openly about mental health and the impacts of suicide to prioritize this issue, help remove stigma, and raise the visibility of the mental health and suicide prevention resources available in our community,” Davis said as part of the proclamation.

Council chose the Sept. 12 meeting date in order to recognize the week of Sept. 10-16 as Suicide Prevention Week throughout the nation. The proclamation states that the city recognizes “supporting ourselves and others” through prioritizing mental health, celebrating diverse paths towards recovery and healing, and encouragement for residents to engage in suicide prevention education.

The topic hits home, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 4,148 deaths by suicide in California in 2021. The topic is especially personal to Bridget McCarthy from the AFSP, who lost son Riley Chart to suicide in September 2020 during his time at Santa Monica High School.

After her son’s passing, McCarthy has advocated for mental health, leading to the partnership with city officials on the Out of the Darkness Walk, which will begin on the Santa Monica Pier.

“Friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers walk side by side, supporting each other in the memory of those we’ve lost,” McCarthy said in a video shown to council members.

Registration for the walk will be on the AFSP website,, and the day will feature performances from DJ The Crystal Method and singer/songwriter Kate Vogel.

“I walk to show hope that you can still have a beautiful life and you deserve that, and also that healing is possible,” Vogel said. “I walk to give hope to those that are struggling, and show that you deserve healing.”

McCarthy has also traveled to Washington, D.C. in order to meet with legislators and call for mental health professionals in schools. Making inroads in mental wellness education is vital during National Suicide Prevention Month and beyond, as suicide is the third-leading cause of death between 10 and 24-year-olds in California according to nonprofit advocacy group The Jason Foundation.

The foundation, started by Clark Flatt after his son Jason committed suicide in 1997, seeks to provide awareness and education for youth, an endeavor noted as taking “a village” to tackle.

“It’s gonna be more than just the family, it’s gonna need to be the school system, the athletic teams, it’s gonna take the community as a whole to really make a difference in this,” said Brett Marciel, deputy executive director and chief communications officer of the foundation.

Marciel pointed to a survey for Los Angeles County high school students as cause for concern, with the survey saying that 15 percent of L.A. area high schoolers have made a plan on how to attempt suicide in the past year, with nearly 10 percent attempting the act.

Using curriculum programs designed for grades 7-12 to be instituted in health and wellness courses, the foundation tries to teach both youth and adult figures the warning signs of those showing self-harm characteristics.

“Most people who are considering suicide exhibit some sign of their intention, either verbally or behaviorally,” Marciel said. “This can be verbally suicidal threats. It may be indirect … ‘I wish I wasn’t here anymore’ or ‘you won’t have to worry about me much longer.’ Or it can be explicit. It can be ‘I’m going to hurt myself’ or ‘I’m going to kill myself.’ These warning signs are indicative of out-of-character behavior.”

Marciel also said that a healthy lifestyle and healthy routine can help contribute to positive mental well-being of youth, along with limiting cell phone usage and participating in extracurricular pursuits. Stating that “resiliency breeds consistency,” he knows that the mental health topics highlighted in September should be year-round fixtures.

“We’re not just reaching out during (National) Suicide Prevention Month … it’s a great place to start, but these healthy habits need to continue on throughout the year … what’s really important is that repetitiveness.”

Thomas Leffler has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism from Penn State University and has been in the industry since 2015. Prior to working at SMDP, he was a writer for AccuWeather and managed...