By Olivia Overman
Sponsored by ACTS
Suicide is Recognized as a public health problem and responsible for 44,965 deaths in 2015 (latest data). It is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In its latest report, Suicide in Rural America, the CDC highlighted higher suicide rates in rural America as compared to urban America. Suicide impacts people from all walks of life, all demographics, all ages. It is preventable if services are available. Action in Community Through Service (ACTS) offers such services in the communities of Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park.
ACTS 24/7 Helpline
A key part of helping and supporting someone when they are hurting is to just listen, said Victoria Graham, Chief Program Officer for Crisis and Trauma Services at ACTS. Open to take phone calls 24/7, 365 days a year, ACTS Helpline staff are compassionate, trained listeners. They are ready to listen to anybody who is contemplating suicide or who is just finding it hard to cope. “We try not to give advice, but offer information about resources open to them, or we can just listen. Sometimes that is all someone needs,” said Graham.
The Helpline is a free service with staff willing to assist with crisis intervention for suicide, sexual assault and domestic violence. “It [Helpline] is essentially a safe space where people can call and speak with someone for support. Sometimes people just want someone to hear them, not try to fix things, but just take the time to actively listen to what they have to say,” said Katherine Long, Helpline Program Director. “Sometimes callers say they do not feel comfortable talking to their support system about what they are going through. Crisis Listeners want people to know that they are not alone and they matter,” said Long.
One of the best things about Helpline is anyone can call at any time. “If they need to talk at 2:00 a.m. and no one in their support system is awake, Helpline is! People call in that are feeling suicidal or concerned about someone else that may be feeling suicidal. Other callers are not feeling suicidal, but they are still experiencing a crisis. Crisis Listeners have the adaptability to speak with callers experiencing different types of crisis,” continued Long.
ACTS Helpline plays an important role within the Prince William community, and is certified by the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). The ACTS Helpline participates in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, the national suicide crisis line. With 2015 data indicating that there is approximately one suicide every 12 minutes, ACTS Helpline is a key tool in helping to reduce the rate of death to suicide.
To reach the Helpline at any time, call 703-368-4141.
ACTS Provides Services For Those Impacted By Suicide
Surviving After Suicide is a free, confidential, self-help support group that meets twice a month, providing a safe and supportive environment for those dealing with loss to suicide. Sometimes the people who understand that best are those who have experienced it themselves. Details of the time and location are provided by the ACTS facilitator.
The brainchild of Graham, she had an idea that this type of support group was needed when she held her first support group in 1991. “I didn’t think anybody would show up on that rainy day in June 1991, but four women did and I knew then it was important!” she said.
Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS)
Another ACTS service is the Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) Team. LOSS sends trained volunteers onsite to provide immediate support and information for a family coping with the sudden loss of a loved one. While ACTS staff do not represent the police or medical staff, they do provide assistance through support and the information they provide. The LOSS team provides assistance to those impacted by the event for up to 90 days or longer, if needed. An integral part of the suicide related services provided through ACTS, “we haven’t had a family turn us away yet,” said Graham.
Traumatic Death Support Group
The Traumatic Death Support Group is a free, confidential, peer led support group helping family members left behind after a suicide or other sudden death of a loved one. The group meets on a bi-monthly basis with time and location provided by ACTS.
In addition to providing assistance for suicide-related crises, the ACTS Helpline has a service catering to the needs of the elderly, Senior Link. Senior Link runs from 8:00 a,m, to 8:00 p.m., 365 days of the year. Seniors can choose to receive a daily call or calls on certain days and times. Many individuals who live alone or who are elderly may not have the opportunity to speak with somebody on a daily or even a weekly basis. Senior Link can give them this.
Throughout the community, ACTS staff provides training on suicide prevention and intervention, stress management as well as self-care. With a vision to create a suicide-safe community, services are available to all. The Helpline staff is there for you whenever you need them.
More information about the services provided by, or to volunteer at ACTS, please visit actspwc.org.
With a mission to instill hope, provide relief and to promote self-sufficiency for our neighbors in crisis in the Greater Prince William area, ACTS is working towards creating a community where no one goes without or suffers alone. Through the services and programs we offer, we believe while people may come to us in crisis, they will leave filled with hope, concrete relief and the tools to succeed without us.
Olivia Overman ([email protected]) is a freelance writer for both online and print organizations. She earned a M.A. in Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, Washington, D.C.