A Tipping Point in Suicide Prevention: 30 Years Strong

NEW YORK (February 8, 2017) – When a small group of academic researchers and suicide loss survivors first joined forces to take action and raise awareness for suicide prevention in 1987, suicide and mental health held a significantly different place in our culture. Today, 94 percent of people understand that suicide is sometimes or often preventable, according to a recent national survey conducted by Harris Poll. This year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, recognizes 30 years of service, and takes a closer look at how the national landscape has shifted considerably since the organization’s founding.

“Progress is being made in how Americans view mental health, and the important role it plays in our everyday lives. People see the connection between mental health and overall well-being, and our ability to function at work and at home,” said AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia. “This is due in large part to those hard at work on behalf of the cause – through research funding, we now know more about how to prevent suicide; through education we have a more informed public; and through advocacy, we have made improvements to policies which support research funding and access to mental health coverage.”

With the help of its chapter volunteers and donors, AFSP is raising more than $20 million annually to further advance suicide research, education and advocacy.  In the last 30 years, AFSP has also made a number of important contributions in the field, including:


AFSP continues to be largest global private funder of suicide research. Since 1987, the organization has funded more than 552 research grants totaling more than $34 million. In 2016, the organization invested $4.35 million in new research grants, including two Focus Grants totaling nearly $3 million.


In its first year, Talk Saves Lives: An Introduction to Suicide Prevention was delivered to more than 12,000 people nationwide through AFSP’s network of 85 community-based chapters. The program provides participants with a general overview of suicide and mental health, including the latest field research, the risks and warning signs of suicide, and how to take action to save lives.  Now in all 50 states, AFSP’s chapters deliver hundreds of public education programs each year within schools, workplaces, and community organizations to promote prevention and save lives.


In 2008, AFSP launched its advocacy and public policy program to demand appropriate legislation and increased funding in suicide research and mental health resources from our state and federal policymakers. Today, AFSP’s advocacy program has grown to nearly 10,000 volunteer advocates from all 50 states who participate in State Advocacy Days each spring, and the annual Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C., every June.  The Advocacy Forum is the organization’s largest effort to educate federal officials about mental health and suicide prevention initiatives. In June 2016, 240 advocates from all 50 states went to our nation’s capital to ask all 535 members of Congress for their support on suicide prevention policy priorities.

Out of the Darkness Walks

In 2002, AFSP became the beneficiary of the first nationwide walk event for suicide prevention. At the time, many detractors told AFSP that no one would walk for suicide prevention because of shame and lack of understanding for the cause. The reality was quite the opposite. Nearly 2,000 people registered for the first Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk, and walkers raised over three million dollars to fight suicide. In 2016, AFSP hosted two annual Overnight Walks with more than 4,000 walkers, and raised nearly $5 million.  Over the last few years, AFSP also expanded the walks program to communities and campuses nationwide. In 2016, there were 415 Out of the Darkness Community and Campus Walks – all organized by local chapter volunteers.

“There is still much work to be done, and we know that we can’t do it alone,” said AFSP CEO Robert Gebbia. “In 2014, we announced a bold new goal of reducing the annual suicide rate 20 percent by 2025, and set out on a path to figure out how to reach it.  With the help of experts in the field, we’ve developed Project 2025 to achieve our goal of saving thousands of lives over the next 10 years.”

Project 2025

Launched in 2016, Project 2025 is an unprecedented initiative which began with an in-depth analysis of who we are losing to suicide, where we are losing them, and how we are losing them.  Drawing on input from a national advisory panel of the leading experts in suicide prevention, AFSP identified four critical areas our country needs to invest to have the greatest impact on reducing loss of life from suicide: firearms and suicide prevention, emergency departments, large health care systems, and criminal justice settings.  If we work collectively to expand programs and interventions in these four critical areas, we can cumulatively expect to save more than 20,000 lives through 2025.

To learn more about our fight to #StopSuicide, visit: History of Suicide Prevention.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that’s smart about mental health through 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, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. AFSP celebrates 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.


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