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American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Celebrates National Volunteer Week

April 12, 2023 – 6 min read


Dark blue banner with lifesavers

New York, New York (April 12, 2023) — During National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 16-22), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) recognizes the incredible impact its volunteers contribute to suicide prevention across the country. AFSP is the country’s leading organization at the forefront of advancing the science, advocacy, and education for suicide prevention including support for those affected by suicide. In all of these critical areas, volunteers drive progress in every state including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide is the ethos of hundreds of thousands of AFSP volunteers.

Today, AFSP’s presence is felt in every corner of the United States through hundreds of walks, achievements through research, legislation to save lives, programs delivered in every community, and even in how suicide is discussed in our society as our public education has lessened the prejudice and shame in opening up about mental health and increased people’s awareness about this issue and how to get help.

So many of our volunteers tell us that AFSP is like a second family to them. It’s where they find understanding, compassion and a way to channel their pain and grief into actions that can save lives and bring hope,” shares AFSP CEO Bob Gebbia. “At every level of our organization, volunteers are invaluable, and we simply would not exist without them. We salute our volunteers this special week and throughout the year for sharing their passion, lived experience and expertise with us, as we work together to create a world without suicide.” 

graphic reading "To All our AFSP Volunteers, we appreciate you."

Following are many, though not all, core areas where volunteers are making a difference at AFSP.

Research Council Advisors

As a leader in suicide research, AFSP’s Scientific Council and Advisors, comprised of over 250 volunteer members who are experts in this field, help set the agenda for research, and with staff, review annual grant applications. Researchers from around the world volunteer their expertise to help select groundbreaking research to fund and inform AFSP programs and advocacy. As importantly, they help to build the foundation for the most important research findings in the field. In 2022, AFSP funded 34 new studies, bringing its total current investment to $71 million since 1987. 

AFSP National Board and Scientific Council member, Tami Benton, M.D. shares, "I am deeply committed to ending the tragic loss of life by suicide. My engagement with AFSP provides a pathway for channeling my advocacy toward suicide prevention into effective actions that save lives. AFSP fosters hope for me and my physician colleagues in our own healing communities both personally and professionally.”

Walks Volunteers

Volunteers raise funds for many of AFSP’s efforts, mainly through hundreds of Out of the Darkness Community, Campus, and Overnight Walks. Across the country, hundreds of thousands of participants contribute their voices to support research and education that saves lives through these walks.

These walks are largely orchestrated and attended by volunteers on the ground, like Amy Micheletti who lost her brother, Jake, to suicide.  “I was proud to be acknowledged as a North Star, in recognition of individuals who have raised at least $10K, for Boston in 2019, and then alongside my brother’s mother for New York City in 2022. Those funds make so much important work possible," shares Amy.  Along with being a three-time Overnight Walk North Star, Amy has been involved with the San Francisco Community Walk and helped establish the first Central Oregon Walk.

Talk Saves Lives Presenters

Volunteers at AFSP chapters wear many hats, from organizing walks to raising funds. They also impart suicide prevention education in their communities. That’s the story of Tatiana Villareal-Otálora PhD, LCSW from Atlanta, Georgia. As a young immigrant to the United States, Tatiana experienced a myriad of circumstances that affected her mental health to the degree that she attempted to take her own life. Tatiana is one of AFSP’s presenters for Talk Saves Lives: An Introduction to Suicide Prevention for the Latinx and Hispanic Communities. “My own experiences have motivated me to help others understand what can cause suicide and how we can all have a role in preventing it,” says Tatiana. “In our culture, there are beliefs that can silence people about their emotional pain and prevent them from seeking help. I know what this feels like and because of my cultural background I can really connect with a Latinx audience to talk about a topic that is culturally taboo.”

Talk Saves Lives for the Latinx and Hispanic communities is a culturally adapted module of AFSP’s signature education program, Talk Saves Lives™. Since launching in 2015, Talk Saves Lives  – available in person or virtually – has reached over 200K people across all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico with science-informed education about suicide, and how we can all help prevent it.  Volunteers are essential to helping reach people in their communities with these lifesaving presentations.

Healing Conversations Volunteers

We’re a “grassroots-meets-science” organization with a longstanding dedication to supporting survivors of suicide loss. Our nationwide network of 74 local chapters relies on volunteers to deliver programs like Healing Conversations, which gives those who have lost someone the opportunity to speak with a trained peer, who can share comfort and resources. Last year, Healing Conversations’ volunteers scheduled over 1,000 conversations with loss survivors. One of those volunteers, Paul Augustyniak, is the board chair of the AFSP Tennessee Chapter and lost Alice, his wife of over 30 years, to suicide. He coordinates the Healing Conversations Program for his chapter and is one of the newest members of AFSP’s National Loss & Healing Council. “Healing Conversations volunteers recognize our role as guides through a heartbreaking emotional jungle,” says Paul. “As guides in this healing journey, we are there for their questions, we point to helpful resources, and we listen.”

Policy Advocates

AFSP is leading the way in suicide prevention and mental health advocacy. Throughout the year advocates connect, educate, and share their stories of hope, struggle, recovery, and loss with legislators at all levels of government. Thanks to the unwavering passion and perseverance of advocates, over one-third of all state bills that AFSP supported in 2022 became law. From sending letters to legislators and media to giving testimony at hearings and meeting with legislators, advocates are making a difference. “Being able to share our stories and experiences with those who write and change policy can help to save lives. When I advocate, I share the story of losing my dad to suicide to demonstrate the need for prioritizing mental health. Coming together as advocates helps ensure that legislators listen to us. Sharing our stories helps make the importance of suicide prevention more than just about numbers,” says AFSP National Public Policy Council Member and AFSP Alabama Chapter Advocacy Ambassador Marissa Grayson.

Project 2025 Advocates

Through Project 2025 – AFSP’s bold goal to reduce the annual suicide rate 20% by 2025 – AFSP has developed and scaled innovative partnerships and initiatives in healthcare, emergency departments, corrections, and firearms focus areas reaching nearly 2,000 clinicians and providers, over 2,500 corrections officers and staff, and nearly 10,000 firearm owners and retailers across the country. Volunteers like Allyson Sipes’ efforts fuel this progress in places like South Carolina. A mental health expert, Allyson has been instrumental in reaching out to the firearms community in partnership with the Veterans Health Association. “We bring information and resources, offering training and education related to suicide, and learning from individuals and communities about what’s most helpful for those environments. It’s about meeting people where they are, and concentrating on suicide prevention, education and firearms safety,” shares Allyson. She has also participated in connecting medical practices and healthcare systems to innovative training for suicide prevention.

In 1987 several families teamed up with researchers from AFSP to learn what leads people to take their lives at a time when families like theirs, impacted by suicide, were in the dark about how to help those affected by this mental health condition. These families were the first volunteers of AFSP, and since then, the organization has grown tremendously. This National Volunteer Week, AFSP invites everyone to learn how they too can be a part of this incredible movement of people across the country making a real difference to prevent suicide here.


The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide, including those who have experienced a loss. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through public education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, with a public policy office in Washington, DC, AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states including Puerto Rico, with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latestAnnual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and YouTube.

Media Contact: PR Manager, [email protected]