Suicide is a problem that remains largely ignored in the United States.
Here are a few of the statistics:
- There is a suicide attempt, somewhere in the world, every minute of the day.
- Someone dies of suicide every 14 minutes in the United States.
- Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and third among people aged 15 to 24.
- Men have been found to have a higher chance of committing suicide than women. Making up 78.9 percent of cases in 2012.
As sobering as these statistics are, we are more aware of suicide thanks to the tireless work of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
(AFSP). The AFSP was founded in 1987 with the goal of becoming a leader in suicide research, prevention and education.
The non-profit organization was established by a group of people who had all lost a loved one to suicide. Who were concerned with the increasing suicide rates among youths. In turn, they created a valuable resource that offers education and research, as well prevention programs. Today, the AFSP has more than 50 local chapters in 35 states.
The AFSP’s mission is to combat the alarming statistics by raising awareness.
The group funds research that studies the causes of and issues relating to suicide; they develop andoffer programs designed to educate the public on suicide; and they lobby for increased legislation at national, state and local levels. Also the AFSP provides resources for those dealing with the loss of a loved one, as well as helping those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide. The organization has counselors and experts available to assist in any manner that they can.
The AFSP has focused much of its efforts on suicide research. Including offering start-up grants for research that will increase our understanding of suicide and the reasons behind it. The AFSP has raised nearly $20 million for scientific research. In areas like neurobiological studies, genetic studies, psychosocial studies, clinical treatment studies and others.
The AFSP has also established guidelines for the media on how they cover and report suicide stories.
One example is using the phrase “death from suicide” rather than“committed suicide.” The AFSP is also looking to decrease suicide contagion or suicide
copycat. Suicide contagion happens through the inappropriate coverage of suicide in the media. Which can result in susceptible people in the same community also attempting suicide.
A proponent of suicide prevention legislation, the AFSP is also involved in lobbying efforts. For example, the organization worked with the Jason Foundation, a Tennessee-based nonprofit
that works to prevent youth suicide, on getting 10 state legislatures to introduce the Jason Flatt Act. Additionally, the act mandates that every teacher in the state complete two hours of training on youth suicide awareness and prevention every year to stay licensed. Tennessee was the first state to pass the act in 2007.
Programs and education
The AFSP has created programs designed to help communities, professionals and teens learn about suicide prevention, and how they can help someone they identify as at-risk. They offer books suicide prevention, and have created a free resource for schools called“After a Suicide, a Toolkit for Schools.”
“Suicide can leave a school struggling with tremendous uncertainty about what to do next,”
Says Joanne Harpel, AFSP’s senior director for public affairs. “We also know that schools worry about the possibility of further suicides. This toolkit will answer frequently asked questions and help put school personnel at ease.” The AFSP’s signature program is the Interactive Screening Program, which anonymously connects people at risk for suicide with a counselor, who can provide information and support. In addition, the AFSP website
has helpful information for anyone who is a survivor of suicide loss, worried about someone they know, or someone struggling and contemplating hurting themselves.