Friday, November 21, 2008

National Survivors of Suicide Day

10th Annual National Survivors of Suicide Day Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008
Program to Reach Over 170 Conference Sites Nationwide and Internationally Webcast Available on the AFSP Website with Online Chat to Follow

What is National Survivors of Suicide Day?

National Survivors of Suicide Day was created by U.S. Senate resolution, through the efforts of Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who lost his father to suicide. Every year, AFSP sponsors an event to provide an opportunity for the survivor community to come together for support, healing, information and empowerment.

AFSP's National Survivors of Suicide Day links simultaneous survivor conferences throughout the country and internationally -- each local conference site is organized independently, but they're all connected through a 90-minute broadcast. This unique network of healing conferences helps survivors connect with others who have survived the tragedy of suicide loss, and express and understand the powerful emotions they experience.

On Saturday, Nov. 22, 2008, AFSP will sponsor its 10th annual National Survivors of Suicide Day, reaching out to thousands of people who have lost a loved one to suicide. The day of conferences connects survivors of suicide loss through a 90-minute broadcast, allowing them to share their experiences of loss. The broadcast features a panel of experienced survivors and mental health professionals and offers emotional support and information about resources for healing after the loss of a loved one to suicide.

"This day is both meaningful and helpful to the survivors that participate," AFSP Director of Survivor Initiatives Joanne Harpel said. "It is a day of remembrance that provides survivors with a unique avenue to connect with others who have survived this tragedy of suicide loss."

All local conferences will join in the 2008 broadcast from 1-2:30 p.m. EST. Many of the local conference sites plan their own programs around the broadcast, including panels and breakout groups, all aimed at helping survivors heal. For those survivors of suicide loss who don't live near a conference site or who find it difficult to attend in person, the 90-minute broadcast will also be available on the AFSP website from 1-2:30 pm, EST, with a live online chat immediately following the program. Click here to register to watch from your own computer.

To hear a radio interview with Joanne Harpel, AFSP’s director of survivor initiatives, click here.

Last year's broadcast, originally shown on Nov. 17, 2007, is archived on the AFSP website. Click here to watch the 2007 broadcast free of charge at anytime.

AFSP's National Survivors of Suicide Day is part of a growing movement toward educating the public about suicide and its aftermath. Through AFSP's sustained efforts and awareness campaigns, Americans are increasingly focused on the crisis of suicide. The hope is that participation in the conference will further this movement, encouraging survivors throughout the country and the globe to share their experiences and join together in the healing process.

Broadcast Program (1-2:30 p.m. EST.)

Opening Remarks
Joanne L. Harpel, AFSP Director of Survivor Initiatives

Surviving Suicide Loss: A Panel Discussion
John R. Jordan, Ph.D., moderator (Providence, RI)
Luanne Cali (Kalamazoo, MI)
Debra Clancy (Cincinnati, OH)
Lizette Martinez (Los Angeles, CA)
Peggy Morse (Stockbridge, MA)
Christian Pitkin (San Francisco, CA)
Sidney Zisook, M.D. (San Diego, CA)

Closing Remarks
Robert Gebbia, AFSP Executive Director
Joanne Harpel, AFSP Director of Survivor Initiatives


Luanne Cali, a computer analyst from Kalamazoo, MI, lost her partner, Linda Konu, a 48-year old construction site manager, in 2004. Luanne and Linda met in the Army in 1975, and were “partners for four years, best friends forever, and soul mates.” A frequent public speaker about her loss, Luanne works with a local crisis center, co-facilitating a support group for survivors. In Linda’s memory, Luanne has also been a coach for Girls on the Run, a non profit organization that encourages self-esteem and health for preteen girls.

Lizette Martinez lost her older brother, 24-year old Miguel, in 2004. He was a recording and sound engineer. Lizette, a professional chef, was featured on The Learning Channel’s “LA Ink” in February, 2008, telling the story of her brother’s suicide as background to the tattoo she requested in the shape of AFSP’s lifesaver logo. She is a member of the board of AFSP’s Los Angeles Chapter and volunteers with the Los Angeles Crisis Response Team.

Peggy Morse’s son and only child, Bryan Michael Gajdarik, took his own life in June of 1997; he had just turned 16. A letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, Peggy has co-facilitated a support group for survivors for six years, trained as an AFSP Survivor Outreach Volunteer, has participated in AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Overnight and Community Walks, and established scholarships in Bryan’s memory. To honor Bryan’s interest in the movement of the stars, Peggy specially- designed his cemetery marker to interact with the sun: every year at the moment of his birth, the sunlight lands on a marker bearing her name.

Christian Pitkin lost his father Bill, a longtime senior executive in the insulation and fiberglass industry, in 2003, at the age of 67. A Senior Account Manager for a northern California software company, Christian is the Chair of the NorCal Chapter of AFSP, and has attended three of AFSP’s Out of the Darkness Overnight Walks in his dad’s memory. Christian describes his Dad as the person he would “always first go to for advice.”

Debra Clancy’s husband and high school sweetheart, David, an U.S. Air Force veteran and electrician, took his own life in February, 1995, at the age of 35. At the time of David’s death, Deb had three young children, ages 7, 9, and 11. Deb ultimately remarried, and in addition to raising her children also works handles customer contact and accounting for a family business. She has facilitated a support group for survivors of suicide loss, is Chair of AFSP’s Cincinnati chapter, and has spoken extensively about suicide to school personnel and community groups.

Robert Gebbia has been AFSP’s Executive Director since 1997. Prior to joining AFSP, he was with United Way, and also worked as a Senior Health Planner for the New York City Department of Health. He holds a B.A. in Sociology from Hofstra University and an M.A. in Sociology from the New School for Social Research.

Joanne Harpel became AFSP’s first-ever Director of Survivor Initiatives in 2002 after having served on AFSP’s national Board of Directors. Joanne is a former attorney with experience in non-profit administration, and is responsible for the full range of AFSP’s survivor programs, including National Survivors of Suicide Day, the Survivor Outreach Program, the Survivor e-Network, and the Support Group Facilitator Training Program. She is a survivor of the 1993 suicide of her brother Stephen, who was a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School.

John R. (“Jack”) Jordan, Ph.D., a psychologist in private practice specializing in bereavement, is the founder and Director of the Family Loss Project, a research and clinical group based in Boston, MA. Dr. Jordan has worked with survivors for more than 25 years, and is the co-author of After Suicide Loss: Coping with Your Grief, available through AFSP. He is the Professional Advisor to the AFSP Survivor Council and a former board member of both AFSP-New England and the Association for Death Education and Counseling.

Sidney Zisook, M.D., is a Professor and Director of the Residency Training Program for the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Author or co-author of over 200 articles, chapters, manuals, and books, Dr. Zisook is best known for his work on bereavement, stress, mood, suicide and psychiatric education, for which he has won numerous awards. A Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and member of the American College of Psychiatrists, Dr. Zisook also serves on AFSP’s Survivor Research Working Group and on the board of its San Diego Chapter.