and Chair, Board of Directors
At the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) we believe in connecting people to saves lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. Suicide is a public health crisis. It’s the 10th leading cause of death, and we can all have a role in preventing it. By uniting in this common goal to stop suicide, we are stronger together and have done much this year to educate the public about suicide prevention, advocate for public policies to advance our mission, and fund innovative research to save lives.
Our chapters connected people in every state with resources to keep their communities safe and better informed about mental health and suicide prevention, including AFSP’s educational program Talk Saves Lives™, which reached more than 75,000 people this year. We hosted over 365 International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day events, providing comfort, connection and support to those who have lost loved ones. The AFSP Out of the Darkness™ Walks enabled a large community of suicide loss survivors and those who struggle to connect with one another, so no one has to be alone. Over 350,000 people participated in our Community, Campus and Overnight Walks, spreading awareness and raising funds for the cause.
This sense of connection throughout the United States is only growing stronger. As of this year, we have an incredible 20,000 volunteer field advocates, connecting with their state and federal representatives and fighting for legislation and policies that will help reduce suicide. And we had several major policy successes, including the passage of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, which was signed into law and will improve crisis services nationwide for people in distress.
Financial contributions increased 45 percent this year to $37 million. This dramatic growth is a result of 700,000 new and returning donors connecting with AFSP and supporting our research and programs. And once again we kept our combined administrative costs and fundraising costs to 17.1 percent, well below the industry standard 25 percent.
How we use our donations to achieve results is of the highest priority to us. This year, we increased funding for research to $5.3 million, allowing us to fund 26 new research grants and bring our total support of current studies to a record $18 million. We connected the public with a stronger understanding of suicide prevention research through the release of a series of short videos featuring some of the world’s leading suicide researchers. Each video highlighted the impact of a researcher’s work, as well as some of the key learnings from their research. We also released a video that tells the story of how one attempt survivor’s lived experience was positively impacted by what has been learned from research.
As a result of our generous donors, we made substantial progress toward achieving our bold goal to reduce the U.S. suicide rate 20 percent by 2025. This year, we forged exciting partnerships to make this goal a reality, connecting with organizations including the Veterans Administration, Aetna, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare, the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, Bank of America, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, GoGuardian and others. And because 51 percent of suicides in the U.S. are by firearm, we connected with the firearms-owning community and educated them about the warning signs of suicide, safe storage practices and temporarily removing firearms from the home when someone is at risk.
Connecting large numbers of people to lifesaving information is another way we foster connection and cultural understanding of mental health and suicide prevention. We launched Seize the Awkward, our first major public service campaign, in partnership with the Jed Foundation and the Ad Council to educate and empower teens and young adults to help friends who are struggling with mental health problems and may be at-risk. To date, there have been over 13 million views of the PSA.
We also worked with the media and entertainment industry, including Netflix, CNN, CBS This Morning, The Mighty, Bustle and others to better educate millions on how to talk about mental health and suicide prevention. But there is still much work to be done. We were tragically reminded of this by the high-profile deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, and a CDC report reaffirming that suicide has been on the rise for nearly two decades. Thanks to our growing work with traditional and social media, more people than ever before realize how critical it is that we stem the tide and take actions we know will save lives. Indeed, we sense an encouraging shift in media attention and public perception away from the stigma that has long plagued the mental health field, toward a realization that caring for our mental health is every bit as important and normal as maintaining our physical health.
Thank you for connecting with us, for being a part of our community, for supporting our work, and for helping us strive for a day when we are all connected in our desire for a world without suicide.