Suicide rates reach record high; one local woman is trying to help with murals across Jacksonville

Suicide deaths reached a record high in the U.S. last year.

Data from the CDC shows at least 49,449 lives were lost due to intentional self-harm in 2022.

One local woman is working to raise awareness for mental health with murals all across Jacksonville that direct people to get help. The latest mural is in San Marco Square and is one of eleven in the city.

Hearts4Minds is the company behind them. The founder, Sherly Johnson, says the hope is that people passing by stop to smile and take in the moment.

Saturday marks six years since Johnson’s son Alex took his life.

“I’m so proud of who he was. His journey and his battle with a disease wasn’t a testament to his character, his value or his worth,” Johnson said.

His death is the reason you’ll see these murals across Jacksonville to raise awareness for mental health. The dragonflies you see are for Alex.

“We see him everywhere,” Johnson said. “We use his memory and our dragonfly symbol to help other people and keep his memory alive.”

More people died from suicide last year than any other year on record. Provisional data from the CDC isn’t final yet but it paints a grim picture.

That’s nearly 15 deaths for every 100,000 people.

Johnson says one of the biggest reasons suicides are on the rise is a lack of action.

“On average there’s an eight year delay between the onset of symptoms and actually getting treatment. I tell people it’s like treating people for cancer at a stage 4 versus a stage 1,” Johnson said. “We are seeing heightened levels of financial stress, social isolation, substance abuse, all of those things combined with the barrier to care and access to resources. And people have easier access to means… whether that an easier access to drugs or access to firearms.”

But there’s way everyone can help and that’s by listening and saying something.

“Listen to what people are saying. If someone is saying ‘people wouldn’t care if I wasn’t here anymore,’ that’s a sign. People start giving things away, acting erratically, differently. Then the key is say something. Say something! Don’t be afraid to say something.”

Every mural you see around the city will have a QR code directing you to the Hearts4Minds’ website where you can find more information on mental health and get connected to local resources.

The QR code is not on the San Marco mural yet, but it will be next weekend, August 19, on what would have been Alex’s 29th birthday. The community is invited to join the celebration as well. It starts next Saturday at 9:30 a.m.

If you know someone dealing with mental health issues, here is a list of resources:

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: call 988; 24 hours a day, 7 days a weekText TALK: to 741741 (suicide)Text HOME: to 741741 (crisis)Children Home Society’s Family Support: Warm Line 1-888-733-6303 ( Way: Dial 211 for 24-hour crisis intervention and suicide preventionThe Vinson Foundation: Helping Families Coping with Suicide Loss ( Helpline in Neptune Beach available Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. — (904) 372-9087 ( Health Systems: 24/7 ACCESS TO CARE LINE: (877) 229-9098 ( Jacksonville: Dial 904-323-4723 or email (

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