Louisiana becomes 70th Chapter of AFSP

From left to right CEO Bob Gebbia, Southern Region Director Mary Jean Coleman, Chapter Secretary Liz Broussard, Chapter Co-Chair Cynthia Elmer, Chapter Co-Chair Jamie Savoy, Chapter Treasurer Lisa Duhon, and Mike Lamma Vice President for Development & Field Management.

Louisiana became the 70th Chapter in the country to join the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) last month, in large part to a push from Ascension’s Jamie Savoy.

The AFSP is the leader in the fight against suicide. It funds research, create educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support survivors of suicide loss, according to afsp.org.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data about mortality in the U.S., including deaths by suicide. In 2013 (the most recent year for which full data are available), 41,149 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. In that year, someone in the country died by suicide every 12.8 minutes.

Ascension’s Savoy is responsible for hosting the first two Suicide Prevention walks in the parish, with last year’s event drawing more than 1,000 participants and raising over $31,000.

“I am humbled by the opportunity because when I lost my mom 12 years ago there weren’t any resources around and we didn’t talk about suicide,” Savoy said. “That stigma was still very much attached to mental illness. And to be able to have the opportunity to come in this organization and be the co-chairman of our chapter, I get a chance to break my silence and tell people it’s okay if you have a mental illness, we’re here to help you. Everyday, other people walk the same journey you walk so ask for help.”

Savoy said she does feel some of the pain still from losing her mother, but she wants to make it “something people can turn a positive note toward mental illness.”

“It’s not a death sentence. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” Savoy said. “My main focus is to educate people and bring awareness.”

Savoy said there are people who are going to “help you and not judge you and label you as weak because you said you’re battling mental illness and need help.”

Savoy added, “Thank you community because without you getting involved, the walk and the work we do would not be as successful as it is. I’m just a vehicle carrying information, I don’t take credit for it. It’s the people who make this what it is.”

If anybody is interested in joining the Chapter, or being a sponsor contact Jamie Savoy at jme_savoy@yahoo.com for more information. The walk for 2015 is set for October again at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.