I’ve just returned from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention‘s annual leadership conference. Having been a stay-at-home mom for most of my adult life, being asked to attend a conference is still something of a thrill, even if the conference was in Little Rock, Arkansas, in January. The Arkansas Chapter did a great job making us all feel welcome in spite of problems arising with the winter weather.
Congratulations to all the chapters that won awards at the conference, and special congratulations to the Georgia Chapter that was in the Top Ten Community Walks (the Atlanta walk was #5 in fundraising) and winning the Outstanding Social Media and Outstanding Advocacy awards.
I am the Survivor Outreach Program Coordinator in Georgia, and so what did the conference mean for me and the Outreach program? Most obvious is the name change of the department that oversees this program. Formerly the Loss and Bereavement Department, it is now the Loss and Healing Department. A simple change that indicates a desire to help survivors of suicide loss move forward with healing and positivity. As was pointed out during the conference, it is not that the weight of our grief becomes lighter, but that our backs become stronger and more able to carry that weight.
To Save Lives and Bring Hope to Those Affected by Suicide
That is AFSP’s mission, and Survivor Outreach focuses on both. There is an element of prevention in sharing personal survivor loss stories and sharing resources with the newly bereaved, as these individuals are at greater risk of suicide themselves. And they are sometimes desperately in need of hope that life will get better, even a life transformed by suicide.
Another group affected by suicide is those with lived experience, or rather those who have had suicidal ideations (had thoughts about suicide) and may or may not have made an attempt to end their lives. Surprisingly, these individuals have not historically been included in the conversation abut suicide, yet they offer a very real look into the why question that plagues so many survivors of suicide loss.
AFSP has a brand new website, and in the “Find Support” Section there are resources for everyone: those who have lost someone, those who are afraid for someone, those who are having thoughts of suicide, and those who have attempted.
Talk Saves Lives
One of the newest programs offered by AFSP emphasizes talk. Their ambitious program to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025 needs everyone to talk, to not be afraid to use the word suicide, to ask someone if they need help. Yes, directly. You using the word “suicide” will not give them the idea because the odds may be strong that they are already contemplating that very thing.
And share your story. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death with a rate that is rising, not falling. To eliminate the stigma and save lives, we have to be willing to use our words to understand and bring hope. Suicide is not a character flaw. Suicide is preventable.
It seems that I got away from talking about the conference, but it is really what happens after the conference that is important. Oh, and I just noticed that the above graphic has not been updated because AFSP now has 84 chapters, and at least 1 in every state in the United States. They hosted over 360 community walks across the country.
If you are moved to share your story on how suicide affected your life in any way, and want to share it here on my blog, please contact me at mentallydetoured @ gmail dot com
Thank you for reading, and Peace…