If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay can be reached by dialing 211. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached at 800-273-8255.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pinellas County woman is looking to help others through her own experiences with suicide and mental health.

Tiffany Mills’ nonprofit “Signed, With Love” began with her placing simple handmade signs on construction paper on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and lead to permanent plaques on the bridge with a suicide awareness hotline number. She now spreads her message of love with personal signs in Pinellas County and other random acts of kindness.

Mills herself is a suicide survivor with a mission to make others believe in their own worth and to make them aware of how special their existence is.

Mills said her idea for placing her handmade signs along the Skyway in both directions started in 2019, when she learned of multiple suicide attempts on the Tampa bridge, an infamous location where those attempt to take their own lives.

“It just felt like it was something and someone every other day and it was just digging at me, because I was just like, ‘okay, that was almost me at one point.’ I sat up there at one point and contemplated that,” she explained.

She knew something had to be done to try and help, even if she was the only person working toward it. Mills wondered if those struggling just needed a sign.

“I have this overwhelming urge to make everybody feel important… and feel the total opposite of what I felt for so long,” Mills said.

Armed with markers and construction paper, Mills created the first round of signs she eventually taped along the Skyway. On those signs, she posted her personal cell phone number.

Having lived through dark times herself, Mills is aware how much of a personal situation contemplating suicide is and she wanted those struggling to have a line to someone immediately available.

“And I feel like, if you’re struggling with it, why not have somebody that’s actually dealt with it and can respond immediately versus, I know there’s times people have called different hotlines and they’re put on hold,” she said.

Mills said she received “a couple hundred [calls and text messages], at least” within the first 24-48 hours of the homemade signs going up. She said she still keeps in touch with lot of people who reached out to her initially. 

Her homemade signs along the Skyway were torn down and Mills began reaching out to the Florida Department of Transportation for a permanent option at points along the bridge to let people know they are not along and other options are available.

“I was like, ‘listen, you can tear these paper signs down all day, but I will go back out there, I will stand up with signs, I will re-tape them. It’s not going to stop until something else is done,” Mills said.

Courtesy: Tiffany Mills

After another conversation with FDOT, Mills said permanent plaques on the Skyway Bridge were installed between four and six months later. The plaques read, “If you are looking for a sign – this is it – call me 1-800-274-TALK (8255).”

“It made me feel really good to know that it was taken seriously and people are noticing that it does make a difference and it does matter,” Mills said.

Since the permanent plaques have been placed along the Skyway, Mills has shifted her focus to other areas around the county. She will place signs with messages of hope and love around Pinellas for those who may be struggling to remember they are loved and have a place on earth.

After realizing she could make a difference with signs in one specific location, Mills believed she could go further and impact others.

“I can’t change the world. That’s something that I’ve always said. I cannot change the world, but if I can get one person to understand that they’re worthy and that they matter and that their life and their existence and everything about them as a whole is important and they choose to stay, I’ve changed that person’s world,” she said.

With the stress of the new year in full effect for those struggling with various mental illnesses, Mills said it’s important to remember the commonly used phrase “new year, new me” does not have to be stressful or daunting. It’s not about changing who you are.

“Maybe ‘new year, learn to love yourself.’ ‘New year, figure out who you are.’ ‘New year, you don’t have to change who you are every Jan. 1.’ That’s not necessary,” she said. “I see everybody saying that and I’m just like, ‘ugh! You’re perfect the way you are. Just learn to embrace it.” 

Signed, With Love is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

Mills said every penny donated to her cause goes to someone’s therapy sessions, doctor appointments and medication, funds for her to drive her personal vehicle to shuttle others to appointments and money for rent, electric, food and more for those struggling due to a mental health concern.

“With COVID, this pandemic, has really caused some serious depression and anxiety and all kinds of stuff in people. There’s just so much that I’ve been able to do and I’m just so thankful that I’m able to help other people through that,” Mills said.

She believes in a light at the end of the tunnel, whether it be a very small light or far down the road.

“But as long as you stay and you keep walking to get to that light, you’re going to get to that light. You just can’t sit and stay still and stay in the same spot. You just have to keep going,” she said.

You can donated to Signed, With Love and learn more about Mills and her journey by going online. The nonprofit also has a Facebook page where you can learn more about purchasing merchandise.