Shining A Light On Mental Health Issues


COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI)- The tragic deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain are sparking conversation about mental health issues.

“Suicide is a temporary problem with a permanent answer,” said Katrina Sunivelle, executive director at Contact Helpline in Columbus.

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For more than a decade, Sunivelle has been working with individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts or suffering from mental illnesses.

She admits, mental illness is a growing concern and affects people of all ages and races.

“Mental health is a big problem for our community throughout the United States,” said Sunivelle. “Most of the things they’re related to that makes it a big problem is the stigma that people associate with mental illness. They don’t want to talk about it because they’re ashamed of dealing with issues that they don’t want to talk about to anyone because they’re embarrassed to talk about it.”

Depression is the most common condition Sunivelle deals with at Contact Helpline.

The executive director said the issues are typically triggered by drastic life changing events.

“When you have several instances in your life that you can’t control, you often feel like you are hopeless and helpless and those things can lead to suicide or to drinking alcohol or doing different things, risk factors come into play with a person that’s dealing with mental illness or depression,” Sunivelle explained.

According to Contact Helpline, in the state of Mississippi, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24, and it’s the third leading cause of death for people ages 25-34.

“Unfortunately as a pastor I have been asked by families to conduct more than a few funerals for people who have took their own life,” said Pastor Danny Avery, interim pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in West Point.

The alarming statistics have many people including Pastor Avery working to bring more awareness to this issue.

“Mental illness may not be as terminal, but it is just equally as serious as many other major diseases,” Avery expressed.

For many people, they tend to hide the fact they’re dealing with a mental health issue.

However, Suniville said there’s help available at Contact Helpline, and all it takes is the individual finding the confidence to come forward and seek help.

“We’re trained listeners,” said Sunivelle. “We listen to that individual and try to shine some light in the dark space, and as we listen to them we provide resources. They may have to go to Baptist Behavioral Health for assistance or Community Counseling Service, but we’re here 24/7, 365 days each year to listen to that individual.”

Sunivelle said people suffering from mental health issues may show signs such as, acting recklessly or displaying extreme mood swings, just to name a few.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental heath problems and need help, call 662-328-0200, or visit for more information.