August 11, 2017 Not only did the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention help me find hope after losing a friend to suicide, it gave me the confidence to be open about my own struggles with anxiety and depression. Without the support of my AFSP friends and community, I would not have achieved the strength through vulnerability required to help others while others helped me.
In the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, where I am involved with my local AFSP chapter, I have the opportunity to connect with people and help reduce shame around mental health conditions. Managing our table at community events is one of my favorite things to do because I’m able to speak with a wide range of people. From those who have survived loss to those with their own lived experience of suicidal crises, having these conversations is healing for everyone involved.
My favorite outreach event is our participation in Twin Cities Pride. As one of the largest pride festivals in the US, the event enables our volunteers to meet hundreds of people in one three-hour shift. We use a spinning wheel of prizes that routinely draws a huge crowd. I love hearing participants guess the answer to our suicide prevention trivia because they take the time to think about how our work translates to their everyday life. Not only is this festival one of the most fun events of the summer, but it’s also a very supportive and engaging audience excited to join our work.
This year, AFSP celebrates its 30th Anniversary. I’m so proud of the organization’s ability to support, empower and mobilize those affected by suicide. Most of us have experienced some sort of trauma, and AFSP gives us the resources to use that experience in a positive way. Picture a jigsaw puzzle: each volunteer is a small piece of this larger and beautiful masterpiece called AFSP. This anniversary has made me appreciate the power of each individual volunteer, and the beauty of our collective effort to save lives. Thank you, AFSP, for decades of providing hope for those affected by suicide.
There is still work to be done. In order for us to reduce the annual suicide rate, our federal, state and local governments must increase research funding for suicide prevention. When this important issue becomes a priority in the legislature, we will have reached one of the most important milestones in our work. This is why our policy efforts and State Capitol Days are so important. As mental health advocates, we need to let legislators know that this is an issue constituents care about, and will hold them accountable for addressing.
Over the past 30 years, AFSP has created a variety of programs to help us reach our bold goal of reducing the annual suicide rate 20 percent by the year 2025. From policy initiatives to supporting survivors, there is a way for everyone to get involved with AFSP. You will find this work to be incredibly rewarding, and healing for yourself and your community. I could not be more grateful for the role AFSP has played, and will continue to play, in my life.
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