The recent losses of fashion designer Kate Spade and chef/TV personality Anthony Bourdain have thrust suicide back into the national consciousness and dredged up wounds left by Robin Williams and other people who took themselves out of the game when they seemed to have it all.
Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans die by suicide, the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It affects teens, adults, veterans, even children, and — as we have seen — people who, by all appearances, have the world by the tail.
It’s a reality East Nashville’s Kat Cloud, the Tennessee-area director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp.org), works every day to raise awareness about, through the AFSP’s four main areas of focus.
“We focus on education and programming, everything from training community members, to training all 848 highway patrol officers in the state of Tennessee in a threehour suicide prevention training program,” Cloud says. “Tennessee was the first state to do that. We also offer survivor support and have an annual walk every year that brings survivors and others together. We also focus on advocacy, so making sure [our legislators are] making smart mental health laws, and [the AFSP is] also the largest private funder of suicide-prevention research.”
AFSP is not a grief or crisis service, Cloud says, but giving more Tennesseans tools to help people who may be in crisis is part of the aim.
Cloud says, “If you do believe that someone might be in crisis, ask the person directly, ‘Are you having thoughts of suicide? Do not be afraid to use the word ‘suicide.’ Sometimes people are afraid that if you ask that question directly that they might get upset with you, or if they’re not that it might give them the idea, which is not the case. In fact, if you ask directly, they’ll know that you’re a person who’s not afraid to have that conversation, and that you’re there to help.”
AFSP Tennessee and other chapters across the country accomplish their goals through financing from grants and fundraisers, including the Out of the Darkness Community Walks, held in hundreds of cities nationwide. Nashville’s next walk is set for October 13, 2018, at Two Rivers Park. (For more information on that event and many other ways you can help out, go to afsp.donordrive.com.)