Mission and History

Mission

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.

To fully achieve its mission, AFSP engages in the following Five Core Strategies:

  • Fund scientific research
  • Offer educational programs for professionals
  • Educate the public about mood disorders and suicide prevention
  • Promote policies and legislation that impact suicide and prevention
  • Provide programs and resources for survivors of suicide loss and people at risk, and involve them in the work of the Foundation

History

In 1987, a small group of caring individuals had a vision: establish a private source of support for suicide research and education, and essential suicide prevention efforts could be sustained into the future. These founding families—each of whom had lost a someone to suicide—joined with scientists to create what today is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP.

Many of our original founders were concerned about an alarming rise in youth suicide over the previous four decades. During this period, the suicide of young men had tripled while for young women it had doubled. Suicide is currently the third leading cause of death among young people age 15 to 24. The highest overall rates of suicide are for adults age 40 to 59.

Before AFSP, there was no national-scope not-for-profit organization dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy.

Since its founding in 1987, AFSP has:

  • Mobilized and connected tens of thousands of people who have lost a family member, loved one, or friend to suicide;
  • Reached thousands of individuals who are at risk for suicide, as well as those who love and care for them;
  • Attracted the participation of members of the scientific and clinical communities, who conduct groundbreaking research on suicide and its prevention with support from AFSP;
  • Established more than 50 local chapters in 35 states, with more in the process of forming;
  • Educated hundreds of local communities about suicide and how to prevent it;
  • Created a public policy and lobbying arm by merging successfully with an existing national policy organization, thus enabling AFSP to press for legislation and policies at the federal, state and local levels that advance the goal of preventing suicide;
  • Substantially increased our funding from individual donors, including the thousands of highly motivated individuals who participate in our Out of the Darkness Walks;
  • Educated reporters and the media about how to best cover suicide; and
  • Communicated with hundreds of thousands of individuals through our website, social media, brochures, speakers and efforts to generate press coverage.