As 2021 comes to a close, we can’t help but reflect on the past two years and the unprecedented upheaval we all have experienced personally, professionally, and socially due to the global pandemic. While we have faced unexpected challenges and stressful uncertainties, one thing we are grateful for is how we have come together as a nation to #StopSuicide.

While we recognize the pandemic has impacted the emotional and economic well-being of many individuals and families, we remain hopeful that we will meet these challenges and improve the mental health of all Americans. We can prevent loss of life from suicide 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 the pandemic is over.

In 2021, we made progress in our mission to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. Here are a few highlights.

AFSP’s nationwide network of chapters delivered more than 2,000 programs virtually and in person. These programs included our signature program, Talk Saves Lives™: An Introduction to Suicide Prevention, which is now available in Spanish and has specialized modules for older adults, workplace settings, firearms owners, and LGBTQ audiences.

We launched new programs, including It’s Real: Teens and Mental Health, which offers teens tips for self-care and on having a caring conversation with a peer; and an Introduction to Supporting Those At Risk, which provides information and resources for supporting a loved one who has struggled or attempted suicide. We also continued our Town Hall series on health disparities in communities of color.

Our Interactive Screening Program (ISP) increased to 168 sites and is now used by colleges and universities, medical schools, law enforcement agencies, healthcare systems, the VA, employee assistance programs, and more. Since its inception, ISP has connected over 200,000 people who are struggling to professional help.

International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day brings together those affected by suicide loss for connection, healing and support. This year, we reached over 25,000 loss survivors through hundreds of virtual and in-person events in the U.S. and around the world, and through a Facebook Live event. We also held our first “Day of Hope / Día de Esperanza,” for loss survivors in the Latinx community.

AFSP funded 37 new studies, bringing our current investment in research to $23 million. New this year were nine studies addressing AFSP’s research priority on underrepresented communities. We also held a virtual International Research Summit in partnership with the International Academy for Suicide Research, that had over 550 researchers from 37 countries discussing the latest research findings.

We held a virtual Advocacy Forum where volunteer advocates met with more than 200 Congressional offices to urge support of access to tele-mental health, and increased federal funding for suicide prevention research, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and implementation of the new 988 crisis call number. One outcome is that the Lifeline is receiving a major increase in funding and federal funds will be provided to states for support of local crisis services.

AFSP’s state advocacy work grew in 2021 with virtual State Capitol Days held in all 50 states. Advocates met with state legislators to champion passage of 174 bills on mental health and suicide prevention. Over 30 of these bills were signed into law.

Last year, AFSP’s public awareness campaigns reached tens of millions through our # MentalHealth4All campaign during Mental Health Awareness Month and our Together, we can help #StopSuicide campaign during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Our partnerships with media and entertainment provided safe and important messages to the public about mental health and suicide prevention.

Nothing captures #StopSuicide more than our bold goal to reduce the U.S. suicide rate 20% by 2025, and our Project 2025 work with healthcare systems, emergency departments, corrections and the firearm-owning community. We are making progress, as the U.S. suicide rate decreased 3% in 2020, and this is after a similar decrease in 2019, which was the first annual decline in two decades.

This decrease is encouraging and holds the promise of saving many more lives; but we can’t let up on our efforts, as suicide is showing signs of increase in some groups, such as young adults and youth of color, and we are still losing more than 45,000 people to suicide every year.

While we are proud of the incredible strides made in building strong, suicide-safe communities, there is more to be done. We know we can’t do our lifesaving work alone, so we thank our volunteers, donors, Out of the Darkness Walkers, researchers, advocates, and partner organizations for joining us as we lead the fight to prevent suicide.

Together, we will #StopSuicide.

  • Robert Gebbia Robert Gebbia signature

    Robert Gebbia Chief Executive Officer

  • James Compton James Compton signature

    James Compton Chair, Board of Directors