BY SUSAN TOLLE
It all started five years ago. 2018 brought us our first Central Piedmont Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention right here in Iredell County. Our fundraising goal—which we thought was a stretch at the time—was set at $5,000. We began seeking out sponsorships and walkers, raising over $32,000 our first time out of the gate — and the rest is history!
Little did we know that our wonderful community and Iredell County would respond each and every year, opening wallets and budgets to help save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. Since the first step of the first walk, our generous citizens and businesses in the Central Piedmont have raised nearly $200,000 over the last five years. Wow! We are incredibly humbled and deeply grateful.
So what does the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention do with all these charitable contributions?
It’s simple. Your Donations fight suicide.
AFSP uses the funds to:
♦ Fund close to $25 million in research for suicide prevention;
♦ Create and distribute education programs available to all at no cost;
♦ Advocate for public policy, including state capitol days held in all 50 states and a new 988 crisis support line; and
♦ Support survivors of suicide loss, including the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day held in November of every year.
Since our first walk, in Iredell County alone, we have trained volunteers who have trained over 4,000 parents, teachers, community leaders, church groups and many others on “Talk Saves Lives: An Introduction to Suicide Prevention,” which is also available in Spanish and now has specialized modules for older adults, workplace settings, firearms owners, and LGBTQ audiences.
We have participated in town hall meetings with our school systems and trained parents on “More Than Sad,” another signature program designed specifically for the family setting. We have trained school counselors, nurses, and administrators on “Counseling on Access to Lethal Means” (CALM). We have trained first responders, law enforcement, chaplains, emergency management, gun shop owners, health department personnel and other professions on “Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training” (ASIST). We have started our first Iredell County Firearms Safety Coalition to help reduce the number of suicides by firearms. We have supported the Town of Mooresville in its efforts with the new Mooresville Suicide Prevention Working Group as they develop a package of resources, videos, and community events all focused on reducing the rate of suicide.
AFSP was instrumental in the creation of the 988 crisis call number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline implemented this past July. We have thousands of advocates across North Carolina and across the country who continue their efforts to impact public policy. We have volunteers who are trained on working with families and others who are survivors of suicide loss.
Nothing captures #StopSuicide more than our bold goal to reduce the U.S. suicide rate 20% by 2025 through our Project 2025 efforts. We are working with healthcare systems, emergency departments, corrections and the firearm-owning community. We are making progress toward that goal, as the suicide rate in the U.S. decreased 3 percent in 2020, following a similar decrease in 2019. We cannot let up on our efforts, as suicide is showing signs of increase in some groups, such as young adults and youths of color, and we are still losing more than 45,000 people to suicide every year.
Something is working, but we have a long way to go. Your donations and contributions are essential in helping us all to save lives. As you consider your year-end giving, please go to Afsp.org/centralpiedmont. Simply hit the Donate button and follow the prompts.
We are proud of the strides we have made, but we can’t do our lifesaving work alone. Together, we will #StopSuicide.
Susan Tolle is an educator, advocate and volunteer with the NC Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.