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.
I first became connected to AFSP because I lost my son. It was June 18th of 2018, and I pretty much rolled into a ball. My birthday is in July, and I hadn’t left the house much. One of my girlfriends came and got me and said, “I’m taking you out to get a pedicure.” So she dragged me out of the house, and we were sitting there and I said, “I feel the need to do something with all this sadness.” She said, “Well, maybe we could do that Out of the Darkness Walk.” And I was like, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She knew about it because a few years earlier, we had lost a student at the high school I was teaching at. And he happened to be a really close friend of her son. I ended up doing a fundraiser for my birthday online, and there was such an outpouring of support and love. I was really surprised and grateful.
We’ve lost so many children in our rural community here in Maine. As a teacher, I had lost five students to suicide. Schools are often uncertain how to proceed with this type of loss. They’re afraid that giving too much attention to it would bring on contagion. So I was really excited to bring in AFSP resources like After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools, and the Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention, which outlines how educators and school administrators can implement suicide prevention policies.
There are still taboos that exist for some people in our community where you don’t really talk about mental health or suicide. AFSP’s community-based Talk Saves Lives program (for adults 18+) is another way of engaging people. It provides a great overview of suicide: the statistics, and the things we can do together as a community to prevent it. Because obviously, prevention is the key: so fewer and fewer people will lose someone in the first place.
Watch Heidi share her story
Volunteer Heidi Day discusses the pain of losing her son to suicide, and how her road to healing began through AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Community Walks. Learn more about the Out of the Darkness Walks.