The nature of working in the realm of suicide prevention, is that one often does not know how deeply we can touch a life. Our actions and energies are spent spreading a message of hope. Our message – “Strengthening Lives With Love”.
On July 28, 2018, we lost our son Joshua to suicide. It was unexpected. He was 20 years old. It deeply affected myself, my immediate family and extended family, his partner, and many more who knew him personally throughout his young life. In the aftermath we chose to make a difference in the world around us. The result was the founding of The Joshua York Legacy Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to suicide prevention and awareness through outreach, education, and improving mental healthcare accessibility.
Over the course of our first year we worked vigorously to build a friendly, mission focused, organization with effective programs. Today, our programs and projects include:
- A Memorial Scholarship Program – providing educational scholarships to high school youth
- Suicide Prevention Rocks – an outreach program for communities and a Facebook group painting and hiding rocks with positive messages throughout the United States and in 82 foreign countries
- Speaker Program – available to provide motivational and informational presentations to educational institutions, first responders, businesses, and communities
- Angel Project – a memorial roll call of lost loved ones which will be developed into a mobile awareness platform
- Take The Pledge: To Erase the Stigma Surrounding Mental Health
As stated previously, we often do not know how deeply we touch a life. I use “we” with several meanings. WE the founders and key members of this Foundation who work tirelessly every day to make a difference. WE the multitudes of supporters who come out to support our events, make donations of time and money, and spread our message. WE, the 20K+ “Suicide Prevention Rocks” members who paint and hide prevention and awareness rocks around the world. WE, my son, our angel, who provides the light behind our work.
Yesterday evening an individual reached out to us through text. We interacted with this person previously. Initially the person challenged us with the question of, “Are you really helping people or just collecting money.” We spent time describing our mission, how we were working to help others, and what our goals were. The conversation turned positive we continued to communicate over several months using Facebook Messenger Text and Video chat.
Yesterday, the person reached out amid a personal crisis. WE listened. WE stayed with them. WE searched for personal connections, motivations and options. WE shared and listened to one another in search of the pillars of light to hold on in the middle of a crisis.
Today, they called and thanked us for being available, for listening and not quitting on them. Through the conversation, we learned that they were fighting suicidal thoughts and they thanked us for keeping them in the present. We shared joy and tears. They confirmed that we share the same angel, our son – forever present, watching, protecting and guiding those who give of themselves and those who receive the benefit of that gift. Together we came up with a plan for moving forward.
We are often reminded to never doubt that one’s words and actions leave an indelible mark on those we touch. WE can make a difference to those we love and to the strangers we meet. The Joshua York Legacy Foundation is thankful to hear directly that a life was saved. People are sharing our message and people are being helped.
In military terms, I’m known as a “Maverick,” meaning I began my career as enlisted and finished as an officer. Six years of my enlisted service were spent investigating major crimes committed by and against USAF personnel. During that time, I investigated many violet acts, including child physical and sexual abuse, rape, murder, and suicide. As a commissioned officer responsible for those in my command, my experience with suicide continued to grow. I was able to help save lives by recognizing signs and ensuring they received mental health assessments and the help they needed.