Community is at the heart of everything we do at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It is through community efforts, made possible by our local chapters across the country, that we are building momentum, and a movement, to #StopSuicide.
Throughout the year, Out of the Darkness Walks bring communities together in solidarity, encouraging powerful moments of support and togetherness across towns, campuses and cities nationwide, while raising funds and awareness for the cause.
This year, nearly 360,000 people across the U.S. raised awareness and funds for suicide prevention by participating in one of 600 Out of the Darkness Walks. Our walks are how many people learn about our organization for the first time, welcoming them into a supportive and loving community, and mobilizing them in the movement to #StopSuicide.
The vast majority of our organization’s funding comes from our Out of the Darkness Community, Campus, and Overnight Walks. More importantly, the friendships formed by the people who walk are deeply personal, and can last a lifetime.
We kicked off our 15th year of Community Walks, which began in 2004. Our Chicagoland Walk recognized its 15th consecutive year with a major milestone—becoming our first Community Walk ever to raise $1 million.Find a Community Walk
The spring marked the 10th year of Campus Walks, with teens, young adults, faculty, and family members from 160 campuses spreading the message that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that suicide can be prevented. Students at Colorado’s Arapahoe High School rallied to support their first walk, which became the top Campus Walk in the country with more than $77,000 raised and 1,200 participants.About Campus Walks
In June, participants gathered in host cities San Francisco and Boston to walk from dusk till dawn in our flagship event, The Overnight. Nearly 4,000 people participated in an Overnight Walk this year, raising $4.4 million.
Special thanks to this year’s sponsors, Boston Bruins Foundation, Sunovion, and San Jose Behavioral Health.Save Your Spot
The more people in our communities know about mental health and suicide prevention, the better equipped we are —as families, friends, neighbors and coworkers —to connect those who are struggling to help. Our education programs are evidence-informed, using the latest science to inform suicide prevention programs.
The need for further suicide prevention education in schools for young people is very real. Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10–24 years old.
D.A.R.E presents AFSP’s More Than Sad: Teen Depression prevention education program for teens is designed to engage teens in recognizing the signs of depression in themselves and others; address and remove the sense of shame some people associate with mental health; demystify the treatment process; and encourage students to talk to a trusted adult about mental health.
Implemented in schools throughout the United States, D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) teaches students good decision-making skills designed to help them lead safe and healthy lives and cope with high risk circumstances including drugs, alcohol, violence and bullying.
By collaborating with D.A.R.E to present More Than Sad, we can help further spread potentially lifesaving education and resources to young people, and reinforce the understanding that their mental health is as real as their physical health: a lesson that will serve them well for the rest of their lives.
Talk Saves Lives: An Introduction to Suicide Prevention helps communities learn together what they can do to save lives. The program covers the latest research on suicide prevention, showing participants how to recognize the risks and warning signs, and how to take action when someone needs help.
Since launching in 2015, Talk Saves Lives has reached nearly 110,000 people. This program has been presented to a wide range of community audiences including police officers, senior center staff, construction workers, and others who wish to learn more about suicide prevention.
This year, through a partnership with Aetna, AFSP equipped several Aetna employee trainers with the knowledge to deliver Talk Saves Lives to their employee network.Watch video
Since 2011, AFSP chapters across the country have been hosting regional conferences to provide training for mental health professionals and community leaders on LGBTQ suicide risk and prevention. These one-day events feature nationally recognized, innovative researchers and highlight local resources and programs working to prevent suicide at the community level.
This year, our Stronger Communities conference series was brought to five states—North Dakota, South Carolina, New York, California and Indiana — increasing awareness for LGBTQ suicide prevention with nearly 400 attendees.
Many people go to their religious leader when they are grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide, or are struggling themselves. That’s why we’ve partnered with Soul Shop™ to provide one-day training workshops to equip clergy, staff, lay pastors, and faith-based clinicians with resources and guidance to foster hope and healing—part of an ongoing, strategic effort to shift the way faith communities address mental health and suicide prevention.
Those who care for a loved one at risk for suicide often have many questions about how best to support the individual and their recovery. “Lived experience” is a term we use for people who have made a suicide attempt or struggle with suicidal thoughts. AFSP’s new program, piloted by seven chapters— San Diego, Arkansas, Virginia, Montana, Long Island, Illinois, and Central Florida—is designed for those supporting someone at risk for suicide and helps participants understand what we know about suicide, providing them with strategies to help them support the individual’s well-being.
When someone is at risk for suicide, it can be a difficult time for both the individual as well as those who want to be there for them. By developing this important, evidence-informed program, our goal is to provide guidance, encouragement and hope for everyone involved.
In collaboration with the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and The Trevor Project, this year we updated the Model School Policy on Suicide Prevention, a comprehensive guidebook for school administrators and policy makers containing best practices in suicide prevention, intervention and postvention policies for K–12 schools.
When the first Model School Policy was released in 2014, only five states required suicide prevention procedures for their school districts. Today, thanks to the work of our volunteer Field Advocates and other mental health organizations, there are now 22 states with laws that require K–12 school districts to have a suicide prevention policy in place. The Model School Policy provides a template for school districts to use as a guide when developing their own policies. The document is free and available to the public through afsp.org/modelschoolpolicy. We also worked with education technology company GoGuardian to guide them in their own efforts, and to help bring the Model School Policy, and our More Than Sad teacher education program, to more schools.
“We know that teachers and others who interact with students daily are in a prime position to recognize the signs of suicide risk, and to make appropriate referrals. This document was created to provide further guidance to schools on how to best address suicide attempts and to support students who may be experiencing suicidal ideation,” said Dr. Doreen Marshall, AFSP Vice President of Programs.
The movement to #StopSuicide, within communities and across the world, is growing. Each day, more and more people affected by suicide — and those who recognize it as the public health crisis it is— are speaking out, sharing personal stories as well as life-saving resources.
We are building on this momentum to spread awareness and understanding. For Mental Health Awareness Month in May, we partnered with Instagram to create a series of video stories featuring top social influencers encouraging people to be more open and honest about mental health. We hosted a live panel discussion with Instagram, Teen Vogue and SELF magazine on how to have a # RealConvo about mental health with your friends and loved ones. Our efforts made us a finalist for PRNews’ Digital Awards Best Instagram Campaign.How to have a #RealConvo
As part of our Seize the Awkward campaign with the Ad Council and The Jed Foundation, pop stars Billie Eilish and Ava Max spoke to young people, openly discussing their own experiences with mental health and the need to reach out for help. Thanks to our efforts, we’re reaching millions of people worldwide, sparking a much-needed conversation about suicide prevention and mental health.Learn how to Seize the Awkward