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DEMAND MORE FOR MENTAL HEALTH
RAISE YOUR VOICE

Volunteer Spotlight: Nancy Cooper, Orange County Chapter

20 Apr 2022 — 2 min read

By AFSP

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Volunteer Spotlight: Francis Gonzalez, Massachusetts Chapter

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How and why did you first get connected to AFSP?

I lost my son Geoff in 2000, over 20 years ago. Ten years after his death, I was introduced to AFSP by volunteering with my daughter for an Out of the Darkness Community Walk. I found out there were people trying to form a chapter in Orange County. I met up with them and began my journey with AFSP. I was part of the founding board and am now the chapter chair.

When my son died, I didn’t know about the risk factors and warning signs. I often wonder how my life could have been different if only I had known. At some point, I decided I had to turn Geoff’s death into a positive. The best I can do is to help educate the public so that other families don’t experience the pain I did when I lost my son.

What does The Overnight mean to you?

The Overnight is such a profound event. The idea of walking in the dark of night and emerging into the sunrise is truly inspiring. Like all the Walks, it gives people a chance to meet other people affected by suicide, and have the opportunity to support one another.

How was this year’s event different because of the pandemic?

At first, I was hesitant about not being able to walk with other people as we normally do. But my Overnight Experience was amazing! Here it was 20 years since Geoff’s death, and this was by far the most meaningful and healing event I have participated in.

Since we were still unable to gather en masse because of COVID, I created my own special route in memory of Geoff. I got up on Saturday morning and walked to the cemetery where Geoff is buried and spent a little time there. I then walked past the schools he attended – grammar, middle and high schools. Then I headed home by way of our favorite place to eat – the local Jack-in-the-Box – and got a chicken fajita pita in his memory. They were our fav.

The total route took me about 3 hours and 15 minutes. I got home refreshed and feeling really good. While I look forward to the time when we can all walk together again, this year I was able to think and share my thoughts just with him. It was more comforting and healing than I expected.

I have a favorite quote about grief: “You just keep living until you are alive again.” On that day, I truly felt alive after my walk.

What does the phrase #MentalHealth4All mean to you?

I would like to see a world without suicide, in which everyone takes care of their mental health, and all people support one another and are kind to each other. Everyone should have access to the mental health support and services that they need. And everyone should know how to reach out and help those who are struggling.

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