Two women are on a nationwide mission to spread awareness about suicide prevention.
Two women have given up their jobs and are traveling to all 50 states on what they call a “Joy Tour.”
More specifically, the women—Shontice McKenzie and Cedrica Mitchell—are doing the tour in hopes of raising awareness around the increase in suicide in the United States.
According to AL.com, the two have made one-month long stops in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and now Alabama for the month of February.
The suicide rate in Alabama has been higher than the national average for the past 29 years. The rate there is 16.2 per 100,000, in comparison to the country’s average of 13.9.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for those ages 10 to 24.
During their tour, McKenzie and Mitchell are hoping to break down the stigma around mental health and increase access to outlets like yoga, meditation, exercise and the arts as a whole.
“We have met so many families who are still in denial about a family member who completed the act of suicide because they don’t want the backlash from the public,” McKenzie said. “They should have received more support around the topic. Then we can prevent suicides. That’s what the Joy Tour is about.”
The Joy Tour was sparked as part of McKenzie’s nonprofit H.U.M.A.N.I.T.Y 360, INC. The women conclude their month-long state visits with what they call a “Joy Jam.”
The Joy Jam is a free event that offers food, connections to mental health resources, and the chance to be educated about different holistic approaches to mental health.
While their visit to each state has varied, McKenzie says the one thing that has remained steady is the fact that people struggle to access appropriate mental health resources.
“Most of these people in these communities are contained in their environment. So, they rarely go outside of their environment,” McKenzie tells AL.com. “I don’t know many mental health resources that are coming to them by going inside of these places. So, we are coming to them.”
After leaving Alabama, McKenzie and Mitchell will head to Tennessee in their 2002 Chevy Trailblazer, which boasts more than 246,000 miles. They hope to eventually replace it with an RV. As of now, the two women plan to conclude the Joy Tour in 2023 in the state of Hawaii.