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Speaking Out in the Fight to Stop Suicide

One way we lead the fight to stop suicide is by advocating at the federal, state, and local level to pass suicide prevention policies that can save lives. That is why we empower volunteer Field Advocates across the country to urge public officials to prioritize suicide prevention and mental health.

Thanks to the hard work of our volunteers and staff, this year we saw the successful passage of five federal bills and 27 state bills in support of our top public policy priorities.

Advocating on the
State Level for
Suicide Prevention

27 state bills became law

AFSP chapters held 38 State Capitol Day events this year, where volunteers met with state and local public officials to educate them about our cause and encourage them to pass legislation making suicide prevention a priority. This year’s efforts engaged over 2,000 advocates and included 13 online events, as well as three first-year events in Kansas, Kentucky, and New Hampshire.

  • Our state advocacy successes this year include:
  • Increased reporting on and enforcement of mental health parity in Arizona
  • Adoption of the Kentucky Mental Health First Aid Training Program
  • Expansion of suicide prevention-related state programs in Florida, including prioritization of Veterans, bridge barriers, and crisis response
  • A ban on the practice of conversion therapy in Virginia
  • Requiring mental health and suicide prevention policies for all North Carolina schools
  • Reinstatement of the Jason Flatt Act to train educators and other school employees in suicide prevention across West Virginia
27 state bills became law

3 new State
Capitol Day events

Annual Advocacy

In 2020, AFSP hosted our 11th annual and first completely online Advocacy Forum, where we connected thousands of advocates from across the country with public officials and top experts in suicide prevention research and policy.

As part of the event, advocates shared their own stories and emailed members of Congress to urge support for funding and policies that aim to improve mental health and prevent suicide.

Personal stories
shared with
media outlets

Advocating on the
Federal Level for
Suicide Prevention

5 federal bills passed

Throughout the year, our volunteer Field Advocates played a key role in the successful passage of important suicide prevention and mental health legislation, including the Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act, the Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act, and the Sustaining Excellence in Medicaid Act.

Together, we continued to make strides in fighting for:

Increased federal funding for suicide prevention research and programs  This year we successfully advocated for:

  • $2 million increase for the Garrett Lee Smith — Suicide Prevention Resource Center, to support suicide prevention work in campus, state, and tribal communities
  • A new $10 million investment for suicide prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Increased funding to the National Institute of Mental Health for suicide prevention research
  • $7 million increase for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Prioritization of suicide prevention for Veterans, Servicemembers, and their families  AFSP supported and saw passage of the Support for Suicide Prevention Coordinators Act, which will require greater oversight of suicide prevention coordinators at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Designating 9-8-8 as the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  AFSP has helped lead the effort to make a 3-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline a reality. We provided public comment to the Federal Communications Commission, met with members of Congress, activated our grassroots network, and partnered with other leaders in mental health to move this effort forward.

5 federal bills passed

emails sent
by our
volunteers to
public officials

Recognizing Our
Champions for
Suicide Prevention

8K views of the awards presentation on Facebook Live

Sandy Martin Awards The Sandy Martin Grassroots Award recognizes our volunteer Field Advocates who have devoted their time and energy working to build relationships with public officials, network with state and local agencies and organizations, recruit others to work for the cause, and further the public policy priorities we know can save lives.

Ken Brown AFSP Louisiana Chapter Ken is a current Board Member with the AFSP Louisiana Chapter and has been a driving force behind the suicide prevention movement as a grassroots volunteer. Ken has demonstrated the true impact that advocacy can have on the state and local level. He worked to ensure all K-12 teachers across Louisiana receive suicide awareness training and pushed further for adequate reporting requirements to strengthen existing state law. Ken has been instrumental in the effort to make public officials prioritize suicide prevention legislation nationally and throughout Louisiana.

Jennifer Preble AFSP Montana Chapter As Chair of the AFSP Montana Chapter Public Policy & Advocacy Committee, Jen works tirelessly as a voice for mental health and suicide prevention. As a member of the AFSP National Public Policy Council, she has shared her knowledge and expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and positively influenced the Council’s efforts. She is passionate about improving the health care system and increasing access for those who struggle with their mental health. Jen has made an impact legislatively on the national level and across the state of Montana. She is a true embodiment of AFSP’s mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.

Susan Maskaleris AFSP Maryland Chapter Sue serves as the Advocacy Chair of the AFSP Maryland Chapter and is being honored for her years of dedication and service as a grassroots suicide prevention advocate. She has gone above and beyond to motivate and engage her fellow AFSP Maryland Chapter members in the legislative process, raising the profile of the suicide prevention movement nationally and across Maryland. Sue has been an example of the impact advocacy can have, from providing testimony and letters of support, to meeting with legislators and the Governor to share her knowledge and passion for suicide prevention.

Allies In Action Awards  AFSP’s Allies in Action Awards honor leaders who are working tirelessly at all levels of government to improve mental health and reduce suicide in our country. This award is in recognition of their longstanding and steadfast support of, and leadership in, suicide prevention and mental health.

Marcus Garza Senior Legislative Assistant
Office of U.S. Representative José Serrano
Marcus has been on Capitol Hill since 2016 and has been an ally to AFSP in promoting suicide prevention legislation, efforts, and funding priorities within his office and to additional Congressional offices. Within the office of Representative José Serrano, Marcus oversees a portfolio including health, education, labor, the environment, Veterans, and financial services.

Olivia Hussey Legislative Assistant
Office of U.S. Representative Seth Moulton
As a Congressional Health Staffer since 2017, Olivia has partnered with AFSP to introduce legislation to prioritize mental health for all Americans. Working under Representative Seth Moulton, Olivia has been at the forefront to reduce the rate of suicide amongst the Veteran and Servicemember communities and has been a leading champion in the designation of 9-8-8 on Capitol Hill.

Megan Axelrod Legislative Assistant
Office of U.S. Senator Cory Gardner
Megan has worked in the U.S. Senate since 2017 and has been instrumental in promoting legislation to bring suicide prevention services and training to K-12 schools and to improve access to mental health care in rural communities. Within the office of Senator Cory Gardner, Megan has been a leader for the passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act of 2019 in the Senate and making 9-8-8 a reality.

Cam Madsen Legislative Director
Office of U.S. Representative Chris Stewart
Serving in Representative Chris Stewart’s office since 2013, Cam has been a key partner for AFSP, collaborating on the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2018 and the continued push to designate 9-8-8 as the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Cam has also overseen the introduction of legislation to bring suicide prevention services and training to emergency departments and health professionals across the country.

Perspicacity Awards  Perspicacity is the quality of keen understanding, of uncommon insight into the world we live in and the issues at hand. AFSP honors select volunteers for their outstanding dedication to promoting suicide prevention and mental health, becoming a nationally recognized resource for the suicide prevention movement, and influence as a grassroots volunteer at the federal, state, and local levels.

Gordon Doughty San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Gordon Doughty is a former San Francisco Bay Area Chapter Board Chair and member as well as a member of the Chapter Leadership Council. Gordon has been a volunteer and supporter of AFSP since 2005 and made a positive impact for the suicide prevention movement at every level of government. He has provided legislative testimony and letters of support throughout the years and serves on numerous state and local level task forces and working groups that focus on suicide prevention and mental health.

In California, he was a powerful advocate over several years to expand suicide prevention training for mental health professionals and school personnel. At the federal level, Gordon has attended every AFSP Advocacy Forum and become a true resource, friend, and wealth of knowledge for members of Congress and his fellow AFSP California volunteer advocates.

Rick Kirchhoff, DDS Illinois Chapter Dr. Rick Kirchhoff is a current member of the AFSP National Public Policy Council and is Co-Chair of the Illinois Chapter Board of Directors. Rick has been a true leader of AFSP’s mission of saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. Over the years, Rick has served as the Chair and Vice Chair of the National Public Policy Council, Chair of the National Leadership Council, and as a member of the National Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

In his home state of Illinois, Rick served on the advisory council for the organization responsible for the development of the Illinois Violent Death Reporting System and served for many years as a member of the Illinois National Guard Suicide Prevention Task Force. Rick’s personal philosophy is to use his time and energy to help others and “pay the support and help forward” – a philosophy which is evident in his tireless work for AFSP. Throughout his years with the organization, Rick has shown outstanding dedication and leadership for suicide prevention and mental health polices nationally and throughout Illinois. 

8K views of the awards presentation on Facebook Live