Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) delivered a powerful speech on the House floor Tuesday night making a plea for suicide awareness and mental health awareness, one month after the suicide of her life partner, Kerry Acker.
“As some are aware, today marks the one month anniversary of my beloved life partner, Kerry Acker. What most people don’t know is that Kerry’s death was a suicide,” Wild said. “Kerry was 63 years old, he shouldn’t have had a care in the world, he was financially secure and had a warm, loving family and dozens of friends.”
Wild talked about the toll of his death and on his loved ones and described the current status of mental health awareness in the United States as a “national emergency.”
“Why am I sharing this very personal story,” Wild asked. “Because we all need to recognize that mental health issues know no boundaries. I do not want anyone else to suffer as he suffered nor for any family to suffer as mine has over the past month.”
In the close to 3 minute speech, she cited suicide statistics. In 2017, there were more than 47,000 suicides and more than 1.4 million suicide attempts in the United States. She detailed how the number of suicides have risen by 30% between 1999 and 2018.
“Behind these numbers are grieving partners and spouses, parents and children, siblings, friends and relatives,” Wild said. “Every community in our country has been touched in some way by major mental health challenges. Moving the stigma can not just be a slogan. We need to make it real through our actions, that means building a future, where people truly understand that they feel no more shame over seeking treatment for this disease then they would seeking treatment for any other disease or medical condition.”
She made a plea to anyone struggling to reach out for help and assured them that there are people who can help in the time of need.
“To anyone out there who is struggling, I’m urging you to reach out,” Wild said. “There are people who love you and will suffer more than you know if they lose you.”
She also encouraged those in need to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or 911.
I‘m sharing the story of my recent loss because we need to recognize that mental health issues know no boundaries. Behind the statistics are grieving partners and spouses, parents and children, siblings and friends. We must act – removing the stigma cannot just be a slogan. pic.twitter.com/3w9Ctue8dW
— Rep. Susan Wild (@RepSusanWild) June 26, 2019