February 1, 2017 – Nancy Farrell, who served as chair of AFSP’s Board of Directors for the past three years, was honored for her extraordinary contributions at this year’s annual Chapter Leadership Conference on Saturday, January 21. Nancy joined the Greater Boston board in 1996. We’ve asked her to reflect on her accomplishments and experiences fighting for suicide prevention.
What was your reaction when you found out you were receiving the individual Achievement Award for Leadership?
I was surprised! But I was very grateful to be among the group of people – all of whom I know – who have received this award. They are people with a passion for prevention, caring, and leadership. They are leaders in different areas of our movement – chapters, survivor issues, fundraising, education and training – and I admire and learn from them. I am particularly honored to accept the award that my mother, Peggy Farrell, received in Atlanta in 2008 – the very first time the award was given.
What first got you involved with AFSP?
I got involved with AFSP after the suicide of my brother, Michael, in 1992. My mother found a support group for survivors led by an AFSP-trained facilitator. The experience was very important for my family members who participated, and introduced us to the AFSP family. My mother, Peggy, became involved with the NJ Chapter. She called me in 1995 and sent me to a meeting of the Boston Chapter (then called the New England Chapter of AFSP). I joined the board at my second meeting and have been an active member since 1996.
You’ve always been a great advocate for all of our chapters. You were the chair of our Boston chapter, as well as a member of our Chapter Leadership Council. You’re now the chair of the Public Policy Council. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I hope my greatest achievement is to come: helping to implement the goals of Project 2025. But to date, I think that working with our national leadership and staff to provide chapters with the tools we need to make a difference, helping to establish the advocacy program, and advancing our work have been my most important contributions. There was a point when I felt we weren’t pushing hard enough to develop and move education and prevention programs into chapters. I spoke up with other chapter leaders, and working with receptive staff, we advanced those issues. I think chapters make the most extraordinary contributions to AFSP and I have been honored to represent them.
What were the biggest obstacles you faced in this work?
Time is the biggest obstacle. There is so much to do. We are doing better with resources, and facing off against shame, but we need to get mental health parity fully implemented and avoid going backwards on that accomplishment.
What do you hope to accomplish next?
I am working on Project 2025 and looking forward to having a project manager on board to help us promote the programs we are developing. And – as everyone knows – there is always Chapter Board recruitment, the next walk, education program and, in Boston, A Sip in the Park. I am particularly looking forward to the Advocacy Forum this June.
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