May 12, 2017 – Held in New York City at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room, the 29th Annual Lifesavers Gala was an inspiring night featuring distinguished guests and honorees who shared their own experiences of how suicide has affected them, and the ways in which they have worked to prevent it. This year’s festivities also served as a time for reflection, marking 30 years since the organization’s founding in 1987.
The evening, which raised more than $530,000 for the fight against suicide, began with opening remarks from Gala Chair Kabir Nath, President & CEO, Otsuka North America Pharmaceutical Business Division Otsuka America, Inc. Nath spoke of the importance of AFSP’s mission to those who are affected by suicide and the need for continued support of the cause.
Nath then introduced this year’s Gala host, actor and comedian Chris Gethard, whose acclaimed one-man show Career Suicide recounted his own personal experience with suicidal thoughts, and debuted on HBO earlier this week. Taking the stage, Gethard spoke touchingly – yet with quite a bit of humor – about his personal and professional journey of having opened up about his struggles with mental health, and how no one should feel hesitant to reach out for help.
The Lifesavers Gala presented awards to those who have dedicated their lives to suicide prevention and mental health awareness. The night continued with remarks from each:
- Research Award Winner Dr. Joan Asarnow, who has dedicated her career to developing, testing, and implementing evidence-based treatments for adolescents at risk for suicide in emergency department and primary care settings;
- Survivor Award Winner Allison Schmitt, an eight-time Olympic medal swimmer and three-time Olympian who lost her cousin to suicide and has now devoted her time and energy to being vocal about her loss and her own experiences with depression;
- Public Service Award Winner Instagram, presented by Elyse Fox, founder of the popular online community Sad Girls Club, and accepted by Instagram’s global head of marketing Cliff Hopkins, who spoke of the new tools introduced to the app this year that help connect those in need with help;
- and Congressman Tim Murphy, recipient of this year’s Champion Award, for his years of service advocating for mental health care, and who spoke during the night of his landmark mental health reform legislation, the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which was signed into law in December 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act.
AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia congratulated this year’s honorees, and spoke of how far the organization – and society – has come in the past three decades. Though the fight to stop suicide is more critical than ever, most Americans now view mental health as important as other forms of health, and nine out of 10 believe suicide is preventable. Speaking passionately of AFSP’s Project 2025 goal to reduce the suicide rate 20 percent by the year 2025, as well as the exciting work we’re doing to accomplish it, Gebbia thanked the organization’s friends, partners and generous donors, without whom AFSP could not continue its important mission of saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide.
View more photos of the event on our Flickr.
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