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Boots on the Ground: Advocating for Suicide Prevention in the Military, and Beyond

18 Mar 2021 — 2 min read

BY Kenya Procter

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Statement by Robert Gebbia, CEO from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

This story originally appeared in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s 2020 Annual Report. Read more Volunteer Spotlight Stories, and watch videos of each volunteer sharing their experiences.

My connection to the cause started when I was offered a position as Suicide Prevention Program Manager with Fort Bragg. I then went to Forces Command, which is big army. Every suicide that occurred came across my desk every day.

Sometimes it’s hard for someone who’s not a part of the military to understand the challenges military service members and their families have. I wanted to see more education made available to service members as well as their families. Getting involved with my local AFSP chapter enabled me to bring in education programs like Talk Saves Lives. I didn’t know what I had to contribute to AFSP’s advocacy efforts until I went to a State Capitol Day event, and was boots on the ground talking to our legislators. A lot of people feel intimidated, saying, “I don’t know what to say to them.” But AFSP’s national policy office prepares us with packets to give to our legislators. We then meet them in person, and share our story, and give them information on important advocacy efforts, like passing a bill mandating for teachers to get trained in suicide prevention, or allocating money for suicide prevention research.

Suicide prevention is personal to me.

I’ve also had the privilege of attending AFSP’s annual Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C. But anyone can become a volunteer Field Advocate and get emails from AFSP’s Action Center, which allows you to take action on federal and state bills that need your support. It only takes about two minutes to fill in a form and send a message to your representatives. It’s literally click, click, click, and you’re done. You’ve sent a letter to your legislators, letting them know we need their help and their support in getting a bill passed.

Suicide prevention is personal to me. I have friends who struggle. We need to be their mouthpiece. We’ve got to advocate for them, and put laws in place that will move suicide prevention away from being this abstract thing, to what it actually is, which is a public health problem.

Watch Kenya share her story

Volunteer Kenya Procter shares her passion for suicide prevention advocacy and urging her representatives to help pass life-saving legislation. Learn how you can advocate for suicide prevention.

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