In late 2011 or early 2012, beginning my first call as a pastor with a congregation brand new to me, and in the midst of breast cancer treatment, I was also starting to recognize that suicide was a matter which might be addressed as breast cancer was: with research, education, prevention, treatment. I looked around for some ways in which I might participate and found a local organization and a national organization, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. AFSP’s mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. It provides funding for suicide prevention research as well as educational materials and strategies, and sponsors advocacy events in Washington, D.C, and all over the country.
Thanks to AFSP, I’ve had the opportunity to testify in support of Ohio legislation mandating suicide prevention education for public school educators and administrators, meet with legislators in Ohio and Washington, and make my voice heard on the need for mental health reform and funding.
I’m just back from our State Capitol Day in Columbus, on which 25 advocates met with more than 60 state representatives and senators. Last year in Washington, we heard from legislators on both sides of the aisle that, despite their differences, the need for mental health legislation and funding was something on which they all agreed. The unfolding debate over the ACA over the past several weeks has made it clear that that coalition of support is not guaranteed. In Ohio, the Medicaid expansion ensures that many if our most vulnerable citizens receive treatment for the drug addictions and mental illnesses that threaten their lives, but that funding is not guaranteed either. It is imperative that we continue to bring our stories to our legislators at both the federal and state levels and to press for mental health insurance coverage and funding for research and education.
I’m one small voice in a movement of many. If you would like to add your voice as well, please check out the AFSP website. We have chapters across the country and you can volunteer in many ways and at many levels of commitment.
Image: With Ohio United States Representative David Joyce and another Ohio advocate.