How to Help: Important Information About Suicide Prevention

By Shannon G. Weisleder

Where do you turn when you or a loved one find yourself experiencing suicidal thoughts?

NSPHotlineThis question has been posed to me quite a bit over the last few days since word spread about actor Robin Williams’ apparent suicide. I lost my brother to suicide in January 2012 and I had no idea where to turn before or immediately after it happened.

Since that incredibly sad tragedy, I have gotten very involved with many advocacy organizations that are national and local in scope, such as National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) both of which offer services right here in Virginia – in metro Richmond and surrounding counties – that can provide you and your loved ones with the help that you may need before, during and after crisis.

1 in 4 adults experience mental illness so its quite likely that someone you love is dealing with a serious chronic brain disease – a mother, son, daughter, grandparent, colleague or friend.  Mental illness does not discriminate. It crosses all races, ethnicities, social and economic classes, religious and political origins. Mental illness is not a character flaw. It is a treatable disorder. It shows true courage to seek treatment. Recovery is absolutely possible.

So what to do NOW?

A great starting point is to visit NAMI and AFSP’s websites for information on how and where to get help.  Like their Facebook pages for constant information and follow them on Twitter and other social media outlets.

NAMI Virginia
NAMI Central Virginia
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI)
Locally, NAMI offers a series of family caregiving and peer-to-peer classes, as well as youth programs and basic education classes for parents and caregivers living with children & adolescents with mental illness. If you join NAMI, you will have access to a booklet full of resources including lists of all area psychiatric hospitals, behavioral health organizations, support groups and much more.

NAMI Walks – Walk for Mental Health is Saturday, October 18, 2014 at Innsbrook. Contact Farleigh Fitzgerald, NAMI Walk Manager,, 804-285-8264 x 202

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
AFSP will host 300 Walks to Prevent Suicide this Fall. Locally, AFSP is hosting an Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Saturday, September 13 at Deep Run Park in Henrico.  Contact Shirley Ramsey, Walk Chairman, shoreyram@gmailcom, 804-868-0082. Register or Donate at: and if you are in crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255 or 911.

Tonight AFSP is hosting an open public meeting – August 14th at Bon Air Baptist Church @ the Village (Café Room), 7250 Patterson Avenue, Richmond, VA‎. Come and meet Mike Lamma, AFSP Vice President of Development and Field Management and Melanie Varady, AFSP Eastern Division Walk Director for a discussion on AFSP chapter in formation status for our area as well as a Q&A on AFSP’s programs, research and statistics for Virginia. Walk Chair Shirley Ramsey will be handing out registration and walk posters and materials.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  

When in crisis call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. No matter what problems you are dealing with, they want to help you find a reason to keep living. You can also call in times of wellness to get information and see how it works which will take away the scariness. The hotline staff can help you understand what to do and what to ask in a time of crisis. During crisis, by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you will be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

Education is key. Arm yourself with all of the resources that are available and get involved with these organizations locally.  Do all of these things in wellness, if possible, so that you are ready to take charge when things are in crisis. Always know that you are not alone and that there are many people just like you and your loved one that understand what you are going through, want to help you, and want you to recover and live. You matter.

Read Shannon’s story here: Finding Me: A Sister’s Notes in the Loss of Her Brother