Reaching Out Can Change Your Life. REALLY!


“Reaching out can change your life” is a slogan we use here at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ( to encourage loss survivors to attend one of our annual International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day events ( It also happens to be one of those slogans that’s true. At least it was for me.

On Election Day six years ago, my sister-in-law took her life. Suicide, unfortunately, wasn’t a topic new to me. In 1970, when I was twelve, my father killed himself. It was a devastating experience that led me to later write a book for people who had lost someone to suicide, called Why Suicide? (


After we got the news about my sister-in-law—which came as a terrible shock even though she had a long history of mental illness and had made a previous attempt—I remember thinking, I can’t do it alone this time.

I’d learned about AFSP while researching my book, so I knew that Survivor Day was coming up. I decided that it was time for me to reach out to other suicide loss survivors in a role other than that of a journalist.

So that’s how I found myself at a Survivor Day event in New York City the Saturday before Thanksgiving, where I was surrounded by about a hundred other people who had experienced the trauma of a suicide loss—most were recently bereaved, others were more “seasoned” loss survivors, and some, like me, were both.

Walkers Walking (5 of 17)

Almost six years have passed since I attended that first Survivor Day event, and after years of volunteering and serving on AFSP’s national board, I am now overseeing all two hundred and fifty events around the world. Not everyone who attends a Survivor Day event winds up working with AFSP, but everyone I’ve met who has reached out to fellow loss survivors has found their lives changed—for the better.