The Greenwood Council of Church Women gathered Friday at Asbury Chapel at Wesley Commons to join in prayer for suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

New Faith Presbyterian Church was host for this year’s gathering.

Each year, council participants choose an issue to pray about and increase awareness of in the community. This year, suicide was addressed.

Krissi Raines, director of mental health awareness for Westview Behavioral Health, told those in attendance to “impact people to be hope dealers” and she encouraged church people to be ready to do that for others.

Westview Behavioral Health Services is a South Carolina-licensed and nationally accredited facility focusing on behavioral issues. The organization has also received a grant to facilitate an eight-hour mental health literacy program, Mental Health First Aid, to train people in how to appropriately intervene and provide support for those with behavioral health issues.

From a young age, Raines said she knew she wanted to help people, but she said didn’t initially realize mental health awareness would be her area of focus. In addition to her work with Westview, Raines is also founder of Bow and Arrow Coaching, which offers counseling and life-coaching services.

“I have had dear friends who took their lives by suicide,” Raines said. “One in four adults struggles with mental health issues and one in five youths struggle with mental health issues. ... We do massive things for cancer but we neglect the mental health issues. ...

“I see God putting me out there to be the bridge between where someone is right now and where they want to be,” Raines added. “... We need people to be educated. If it’s OK to take chemo for cancer, it’s also OK for someone to be on an anti-depressant. ...What is hindering us from being those people who want to touch other people who are hurting?... We can’t give hope if we don’t have it.”

The Greenwood Council of Church Women formed in the mid-1990s and has been hosting annual prayer gatherings since then, complete with hymns, Scripture readings and fellowship. Participation is open to any Greenwood area church. More than a dozen churches are part of the council.

During the midday prayer gathering an offering is collected that goes to support nonprofit organizations.

Contact council secretary Elestine Norman for information at esnorman@nctv.com.

Contact St. Claire Donaghy at 864-943-2518