Welcome. We are the Westchester New York chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The grassroots work we do focuses on eliminating the loss of life from suicide by: delivering innovative prevention programs, educating the public about risk factors and warning signs, raising funds for suicide research and programs, and reaching out to those individuals who have lost someone to suicide.
As a part of AFSP’s growing nationwide network of chapters, we bring together people from all backgrounds who want to prevent suicide in our communities. Families and friends who have lost someone to suicide, vulnerable individuals, mental health professionals, clergy, educators, students, community/business leaders, and many others energize our chapter.
2013 Board of Directors
Frank Erlanger: Born in Queens, raised in Westchester, and a graduate of Fordham University in the Bronx, I have been fortunate to experience the best that the New York Metro area has to offer. After spending six years working for the New York Public Library, I transitioned to a career in event management and production, which I have enjoyed for several years. Many of the events I produce benefit charitable organizations, which I find the most rewarding aspect of my work.
Travel is a huge passion for me, and a safari in Kenya and two weeks in Australia are two of my favorites. Hiking and biking are fun ways to stay active and fit, especially in Westchester which offers some of the best of both.
I joined AFSP for a very personal reason. Just before my birthday, in 1998, I was in a very dark and frightening place due to a prolonged, and until then undiagnosed, bout with depression and suicidal ideation. Life is all about the choices you make, and I chose to finally seek treatment after years of pain. With treatment, and support from family and friends, I began my road to recovery, which set me on a path to a full, active, happy, and productive life that I did not think was possible beforehand.
You are not alone. Our lives are all a precious gift to be valued, enjoyed, and shared. My hope in sharing my experience is to reach those suffering with undiagnosed mental illness and encourage them to seek treatment. Seeking help is a courageous, healthy, and life affirming act.
Deanna D’Onofrio:I am recent college graduate residing in southern Westchester County. Further, I hold a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Binghamton University. My initial involvement with the AFSP began after the shocking loss of a very dear friend to suicide. I looked to volunteer with the organization as a means of trying to educate myself about suicide and to potentially heal after the tragedy. What started out as a simple way to volunteer developed into an exciting and productive opportunity to educate the community about a prevalent yet not adequately discussed topic: mental disorders.
Jennifer Cook:I am a married, mother of 2 girls - 18 & almost 2 year old. I graduated with a BS in Finance from UNC Greensboro but currently I am a stay at home mom. I lost my 16 year old nephew, Josh, to suicide in April of 2007. Shortly after moving to Westchester County in 2009 I looked to continue participating in the Out of The Darkness walks and found the Westchester chapter. I am honored & blessed to be on the board and help the chapter, AFSP and survivors work towards better education & awareness on this important topic.
Michael Orth, MSW
In his 24 year career in human services, Michael has spent 20 years with the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health (DCMH). Michael was appointed Second Deputy Commissioner in April, 2009. His current responsibilities include oversight of Westchester County’s Developmental Disabilities and Children’s Mental Health Services. Other areas of responsibility include Children’s System of Care reform efforts, DCMH Psychological Response/Disaster Mental Health team, DCMH Suicide Awareness and Prevention efforts and improving service delivery and planning across mental hygiene areas (developmental disabilities, mental health and alcohol/substance abuse). Michael has facilitated over 700 national, state, and county training programs and provided technical assistance on systems of care development, collaborative approaches in cross-systems efforts, and wraparound process. Michael is also a member of National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Westchester Chapter as well as Westchester County Anti-Racist Alliance. Michael joined American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Westchester Chapter to help promote the mission of AFSP and support planning opportunities for training and awareness.
Bill Zito:A former police officer, now a broadcast news journalist, I grew up in Westchester and returned to the area twenty years later. I encountered many suicides on the job as a police officer and then at home when my wife took her own life. Her decision left many of us behind to rebuild and wonder why, most importantly our then five-year-old daughter. We can longer hide in the shadows; I'm here because none of us should be alone in this battle.
Noah Weinbaum:I’m originally from the Bronx and moved to Westchester to start HS. Grew up dealing with a host of medical and psychological conditions all my life. Diagnosed with ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, Dyslexia, word retrieval problems, OCD and an underlying depression. In my late 20's moving out to my first apartment, with my then girlfriend, is when my "adult problems" as I call them, started. Girlfriend lost her job, never got a new one, never helped with house work. All pressure fell on me. Out of kindness or fear, I never asked her to leave. Working 80 hours weeks plus maintaining a household and fighting with my girlfriend put too much pressure on me, making me angry all the time. Friends offered to help but feeling my girlfriend was the one who had to change, I said there was nothing they could do so they became distant. Girlfriend finally moved out one day while I was at work, I turned to my best friend for help. He turned his back saying he never wanted to speak to me again because of the "person you became" is how he said it. After 25 yrs of friendship, he turned his back. Afraid of losing other friends the same way, I never turned to anyone else for help. Afraid the same thing would happen with family, I distanced myself from family as well. I started going to work strictly for the paycheck. A job where peoples’ lives depended on me and I didn't care about it, it was a dangerous combination. Depression surfaced and took over my life. I began entertaining suicidal thoughts. Remembering an inspirational moment I had once seen, made me seek help from a therapist who sent me to a psychiatrist who put me on medication and recommended the AFSP. Here I am with a new found purpose in life.
Lauren Tobin: Lauren was born and raised in Westchester County, and moved to Manhattan following high school to attend college at NYU Stern School of Business. She graduated in 2005 and remained in Manhattan for the next four years working in Public Relations and Marketing. In 2009, she relocated to Cape Cod where she met and married a wonderful man in June 2012. Unfortunately, her husband struggled with mental illness and took his life in March 2013. Lauren has joined the Board of Directors because she feels passionately about the importance of mental health education and removing the stigma surrounding mental illness, including encouraging those who suffer to reach out for diagnosis and treatment. As a survivor or suicide loss, Lauren wants other survivors to know that they are not alone and that there are others out there who understand exactly what they are going through and how difficult it is to lose a loved one to suicide.