With Ohio State Representative Anthony DiVitas
My son's death by suicide 7.5 years ago has made a mental health and suicide prevention advocate of me. I've been to the Ohio Capitol in Columbus to testify in favor of legislation to require continuing education in suicide prevention for our public schools staff, and to Washington, D.C. twice to meet with federal legislators to discuss upcoming bills and prevention in general. This week I was privileged to do the same thing in Ohio.
The first week in D.C, three years ago, I learned that this is a thing that people do: They join groups and head to legislative offices to advocate for laws and funding. Last year in Washington, we meet people from a pancreatic cancer group -- there were 900 of them! swarming all over the Hill -- and a car emissions group. This week in Columbus, the anti-death penalty and the humane treatment for animals people were there. And while I was in Columbus, my daughter was in Washington, doing the same thing on behalf of non-profit organizations!
Our task is fairly simple: meet for 15-20 minutes with a legislator and/or aide, tell a bit of our own story, and convey what we hope they will vote for on our behalf. This year? At least three legislators told me how much it means that we take the time to do this. One shared related bills that he has introduced, pertaining to making assistance available to families in which school truancy is a problem. My own state representative became genuinely excited about helping us with first responder training and about coming to speak at our local Out of the Darkness Walk in the fall. My state senator noted that we in our county have the highest number of people with mental health needs in Ohio, and the lowest per capita funding for same.
Seven years ago, I could never have imagined that I would find energy around the word suicide. But's it's tremendously invigorating, to see and become part of government in action. My inner lawyer emerged, I had a great time, and I hope we made a bit of a difference as well.