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Column

AFSP provides help, support for those affected by suicide

Every 40 seconds someone in this world dies from suicide. For that 40 seconds, 25 people attempt to take their own life. The CDC has reported that these numbers are expected to rise. This information blew my mind when I first started volunteering for The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

My brother, Bryan Strum, took his own life Aug. 11, 2009, he was 20 years old. This was the worst day of my life, and for the next six years, I continued to spiral into a dark depression that almost killed me. I remember feeling like I couldn’t talk about him; that I would be viewed as almost “alien” for his way of death. I would tell people he ran away or we don’t know what happened to him. People would talk behind my back about his suicide, and it broke me. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of people who told me he was in hell for taking his own life, what he had done was the ultimate sin. When I think about these years, it’s like it all happened yesterday. The pain is still there, and it goes deep.

One day in 2015, I came across an Out of the Darkness Walk ad on Facebook. This was the first time I had ever heard of anything pertaining to suicide prevention/awareness. I couldn’t believe that there were actually people out there who had experienced this and felt the same way I did. I was not alone. I could finally breathe again. I attended a walk in Waco, Texas, where I met the most compassionate people of my entire life and whom I still look up to today. I could finally cry without the sense of being judged. I could say his name again without fear. It opened up an entire new world that would change my life forever.

Since then, I have become a full-time volunteer with The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I have helped plan an Out of the Darkness Walk in Ankeny. We have come up with our own event called Be The Voice Game Night in Newton for suicide prevention and awareness. We have gotten AFSP’s educational presentations started in schools, helped create a coalition specifically for suicide prevention, awareness and response. We have also provided the community with a bereavement group for people who have lost a loved one to suicide. They can even help find mental health services in your area from their website AFSP.org. Words cannot express my gratitude for what this organization has done for me and our community. They gave me my life back, and I want to give my community members the same chance at life again. All of this is done without cost to the public and is completely nonprofit. They are a foundation that is honestly out to change the world through compassion and education.

For more information on The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention visit AFSP.org or you can contact Kristena Strum at kmstrum@dmacc.edu

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