Some locals spend Saturday paddling for suicide prevention

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SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Gulf of Mexico has always offered Amanda Abbott more than just fun in the sun.

"One of my favorite things for a release is paddle boarding and surfing. It's always kind of a nice release to get out in the water. It's quiet and peaceful you can kind of clear your head and get in a great mental space. I wanted to share that with others so we can get more people smiling out there," said Abbott, the Paddle for Prevention founder.

Abbott started the event to get people in the gulf on their paddle board to raise awareness for suicide prevention. She was inspired by a high school friend's first hand experience with suicide.

"I lost my father in 2007 to suicide. During that time I realized that nobody wanted to talk about suicide so I had to deal with it silently," said Donna Williamson, Chair for American Foundation Suicide Prevention Florida Panhandle Chapter. "I decided I wanted to change that. I wanted to bring a voice to all those who suffer from mental illness, stigma attached to it."

All of the paddle boards at the event were donated by the CEO of YOLO Board, Jeff Archer.

"I mean our biggest hope when we do these types of events. Is to basically create awareness that a lot of people deal with mental health issues. So it's just to be aware that it is an illness and that plenty of people are affected by it," Archer said.

Abbott said she hopes people have fun at Paddle for Prevention but that it also leaves a lasting impact.

"You know people can come together and feel safe talking about the person they lost, or the struggle they have on their own. I think the more we do that, the healthier our community can be," said Abbott.