A personal look at suicide and the latest prevention efforts in Georgia

Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:55 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Three weeks ago, there was a viral movement to find missing 26-year-old Savannah Sheats.

“It was 36 hours of fury,” said David Sheats, Savannah’s father.

Atlanta Police put out a missing person’s report for Sheats, who graduated from the University of Georgia.

Within two days, Savannah’s body was found inside her car, parked less than two miles from her house.

Officials said she died of suicide.

“She had a new job, good boyfriend, everything was great. Based on what we saw,” said David Sheats, in an interview with CBS46 on Monday. “But what was going on in here [pointing to his chest]? I don’t know what more I could have done.”

Savannah Sheats (center) grew up in Atlanta and graduated from the University of Georgia.
Savannah Sheats (center) grew up in Atlanta and graduated from the University of Georgia.(Sheats Family)

David Sheats said his daughter battled depression for years. She sought help from psychiatrists.

Sheats said he didn’t realize the true toll depression had on his daughter.

“It’s like an ebb and flow kind of thing. You don’t know when it’s coming or coming back,” said Sheats.

David now wears a bracelet promoting NAMI Northside, an Atlanta organization for those affected by mental illness.

According to the latest data by the CDC, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for Georgians between the ages of 10-34.

In July, HB 1013 took effect.

Among other things, it requires private insurers to cover mental illness in the same way it covers physical ailments.

“They’ve been demoralized over a period of time, working in a system that’s dead-last in the country,” he said. “They see an opportunity for change and hope, and I think that’ll change the system in itself,” said Chris Johnson, the communications director for Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network.

The legislation opens the door for other resources in the state including facilities, programming, monetary grants, and research and data.

Law enforcement agencies are also stepping up their efforts to spread suicide prevention information.

On Thursday, the John’s Creek Police Department will host a suicide prevention event at John’s Creek Baptist Church, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On Saturday, Skyland Trail, a mental health treatment center, will host a 5K run/walk, to benefit mental health treatment.