PLUMSTED – Making a difference, providing awareness and raising money were the goals of a unique fundraiser held at the Laurita Winery recently. The fundraiser was hosted by Jennifer Hansen, founder of Mettamade Yoga Events as a benefit for the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.
Hansen’s Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention yoga event was planned prior to the shocking suicide deaths of designer Kate Spade and TV chef Anthony Bourdain. Their deaths once again brought to the forefront the topic of mental illness. Around 50 people took part in the $30 a ticket event and all proceeds went to the AFSP.
Hansen said “this is my first fundraising event for this specific cause, but I also host charity events for dog adoption agencies through the organization Doggy Noses and Yoga Poses. I hosted this event because a client of mine reached out to me with her story and how she wanted to raise money and awareness.”
Hansen’s client, Arielle Disick of Millstone Township, had a personal reason for attending the benefit. “I lost a friend to suicide. I think about him every day. I think about the time we spent together and the happy memories we shared. What was he going through in those times? What didn’t I see? How could I have helped?
“There are so many times I wish he was here to give advice, to celebrate with, or to console me. Am I doing him justice by sharing his story like this? Would he want it told at all? I don’t know the answer. And that’s okay – because if the money we raise means one more friend will not have to say goodbye, one less sister will not have to go on without her older brother looking out for her, one less parent will not have to plan a funeral for their child, then we will have made a difference.”
She added that she did not want to see her late friend’s legacy be linked with suicide. “He was so much more. I think of how much pain he must have been grappling with. It was not his choice. You don’t wear mental illness as you do physical diseases. He was so selfless. He had all that pain going on and was always willing to help others.
“That is why having this fundraiser was important but it wasn’t just about raising money but bringing about awareness. I’d rather have 100 people donate a dollar than one person donate $100.”
Disick said after the event that “the event raised $1,040. Jen and I first started talking and planning about this event in January and I am very happy with the result.”
She added that mixing the message of suicide prevention awareness and yoga was a natural according to the philosophy of Mettamade. “Jennifer has been an absolute angel with this event. Advocacy for mental health is so important.”
“We need to have the difficult conversations, we need to raise awareness, and we need to end the stigma around mental health issues,” Disick said.
While Disick’s story inspired the local event, it was only her first effort to help AFSP. She will be training this summer for the Chicago Marathon and run its 26.2 miles course for the organization.
To help Disick reach her fundraising goal, which are 100 percent tax deductible and will be fully matched, you can donate online. “The more awareness we raise, the stronger our impact,” Disick said. The link to her donation page is afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=1515378.
AFSP New Jersey Director Elizabeth Roithmayr-Clemens recently attended AFSP’s annual Advocacy Forum in Washington D.C. Suicide Prevention Programs and Initiatives.
“I traveled to Washington, D.C. along with more than 225 AFSP advocates from all 50 states to educate Congress on priority areas to help improve mental health and prevent suicide,” Clemens said.
“We provided information to all 535 Congressional offices urging them to support legislation in five key areas that would play a vital role in preventing suicide and improving mental health across the country,” Clemens said.
The five key areas include increased funding for suicide prevention research, insurance coverage for mental health and substance use conditions, military and veteran suicide prevention, preservation of funding for suicide prevention programs and increased funding for the National Suicide Prevention (800-273-8255 [TALK]) and Crisis Centers.
Suicide Prevention Programs and Initiatives
- In 2004, the New Jersey legislature established the Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council (“Council”) to advise and make recommendations to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for youth suicide reporting, prevention and intervention. DCF is the lead agency for youth suicide prevention in the state and provides staff support to the Council.
- New Jersey Law charges DCF with developing and adopting a statewide youth suicide prevention plan, in consultation with the Council and the Department of Human Services; see the New Jersey Strategy for Youth Suicide Prevention (2015), bit.ly/2FGp64R.
- Funded by DCF, the Traumatic Loss Coalitions for Youth Program at Rutgers-University Behavioral HealthCare offers support to professionals working with school-age youth and provides suicide prevention and trauma response assistance to schools after a loss.
- The NJ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services’ Suicide Prevention Committee developed the state’s Adult Suicide Prevention Plan 2014-2017, bit.ly/2DwSJj7. The Suicide Prevention Committee has overall responsibility for implementing, monitoring, and evaluating the plan.
- New Jersey law requires that public school teaching staff members complete at least 2 hours of suicide prevention instruction per professional development period; instruction must be provided by a licensed health care professional with training/experience in mental health issues. The law also requires educators to report when they believe that a student has attempted or completed suicide; requires that suicide prevention be included within elementary, middle, and high school curriculum); and that institutions of higher education have health care professionals available 24 hours a day who focus on reducing student suicides and attempted suicide.