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As a writer, some of the work I’m most proud of is the time I spent volunteering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Serving on the Central Florida Chapter Board of Directors alongside an amazing group of individuals, I created the Life Support Newsletter, working as editor, collecting stories from survivors of suicide.

Listening to the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, friends, classmates, and colleagues tell the story of a loved one who had died by suicide, was never easy. But it was here, during these gentle moments, that I learned the most about suicide awareness, prevention, and the harsh reality and effect of the stigma associated with these losses. It is here that stories beginning with loss, ended in hope. It is here that dark turned into light and survival turned into activism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2010(the most recent year that statistics are available). There were 38,364 reported suicides in 2010. Today numerous organizations—TWLOHA, The Trevor Project, AFSP, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline—many spearheaded by survivors, work tirelessly to break the stigma of suicide and mental illness and to promote suicide awareness and prevention by educating the public.

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, take a moment to learn more about the warning signs of suicide. Consider volunteering with a local organization. Talk about it. Listen. And tonight at 8pm, join others around the world and light a candle near a window to show your support for World Suicide Prevention Day.

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