Message from the
Chief Executive Officer
and Chair, Board
of Directors

This has been a challenging year for our country, suicide prevention and our organization. The global pandemic has impacted the emotional and economic well-being of many individuals and families, and left many of us to manage a variety of emotions, including feelings of uncertainty.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the need for mental health services has increased, and there has been a rise in requests for help to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line. Surveys have reported higher than usual symptoms of anxiety and depression. Most alarming is that 1 in 10 respondents to a CDC survey reported having recent thoughts of suicide, with even higher findings for young adults.

However, there is reason for hope. Increases in suicide are not a foregone conclusion if we act now to lessen the risk and support the mental health of our friends, families, and communities. This is exactly what AFSP has been doing throughout the pandemic, and will continue to do long after it’s over.

Our #KeepGoing campaign emphasizes the need to be there for each other and take steps to safeguard our mental health and prevent suicide. Through our national and chapter networks, the use of traditional and social media, and our many partners, we reached tens of millions of people in 2020, encouraging self-care, stressing the importance of seeking mental health treatment when needed, and reminding people that physical distancing does not mean social isolation.

The #KeepGoing theme also sums up who we are as an organization, as we continue to advance suicide prevention research, programs and advocacy, in spite of the difficulty of raising funds due to the pandemic.

We had many encouraging moments this year. Here are just a few highlights:

  • AFSP took steps to address mental health and suicide prevention among underserved populations, including launching a Town Hall series to bring attention to health disparities in communities of color; adopting a new research priority aimed at increasing suicide research in underrepresented communities; and forming a partnership with the National Latino Behavioral Health Association.
  • We successfully advocated for passage of the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which designated 9-8-8 as the three-digit, easy-to-remember phone number for people in emotional distress. This new law also ensures states are able to increase support to local crisis centers to meet increased demand.
  • We funded 43 new suicide prevention research studies, bringing our total current investment in research to $20 million, with 100 current studies.
  • We created a new program, Finding Hope, to provide guidance to families and others supporting someone who struggles, and moved quickly in the early days of the pandemic to ensure that our Talk Saves Lives education program continued to reach tens of thousands virtually. A new digital version of the program is being used in workplaces, through AFSP’s partnership with Aetna/CVS Health.
  • As a part of National Suicide Prevention Week, we partnered with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention to conduct a Harris Public Opinion Poll and found that 93% believe suicide can be prevented; 78% view mental health and physical health as equally important, and 95% of respondents said they would do something if someone close to them was thinking of suicide.
  • We launched new Seize the Awkward Public Service Ads in partnership with the Ad Council and Jed Foundation to empower teens and young adults to help a friend who is struggling. The campaign has had 40 million views to date.
  • Most promising is our bold effort to reduce the suicide rate in the US 20% by 2025 through Project 2025 and its work in healthcare systems, emergency departments, corrections and to reduce firearm suicide.

Our progress during this unprecedented time is a direct result of millions of people getting involved in our cause as champions, advocates, donors, and friends. And it is having an impact.

There is more reason for hope: the U.S suicide rate fell slightly in 2019, the first annual decline in two decades. It’s a small decrease, the data is preliminary, and is for a period prior to the pandemic. Nonetheless, it is encouraging and holds the promise of saving many more lives.

We can’t do our important work alone. We invite you to join us as we lead the fight to prevent suicide. Together, we #KeepGoing.

Robert Gebbia
Robert Gebbia Chief Executive Officer
James Compton
James Compton Chair, Board of Directors