Local Grad Keynotes Global Suicide Prevention Event
Haley DeGreve graduated from Augustana College in May, but the Alleman High alum already has become a national advocate in the fight for suicide prevention.
On average, there are 132 suicides a day in the U.S., totaling 48,344 in 2018 (the most recent data available), and is the second-highest cause of death for those age 10-34. The rates have been rising steadily since 2000 — by 35 percent overall, across most age groups. DeGreve is worried about future generations and what effect this catastrophic pandemic will have.
In July, DeGreve was on the podcast of Kevin Hines, a leading suicide prevention activist, and she’ll be a keynote speaker Saturday at 6:30 p.m. for the Hope Rising Suicide Prevention Virtual Summit, a 12-hour free event available at https://www.hoperising.one/. It’s also a fundraiser for the National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline and the American Association of Suicidology.
The Kevin Margaret Hines Foundation is hosting Hope Rising. The expected number of attendees is 20,000, since it’s an all-day online event, with 100 speakers.
DeGreve will speak on her personal story, called “Life is Worth Living,” reflecting on her triumph over a hard childhood of depression and anxiety during middle school and early high school, when she was bullied and felt isolated. Staying positive is a challenge during an isolating, global pandemic.
“I feel like that has been my biggest lesson this year, is life is worth living.”
In June, DeGreve contacted Kevin Hines – who attempted suicide in 2000 by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, and travels the world telling his story. She was inspired by him to start the Gray Matters Collective at Augustana in January 2019, a black-and-white poster campaign to highlight the stigma around mental health and encourage greater awareness. The posters were displayed across campus
featuring students and their perspectives, and the group held regular meetings with guest speakers.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which has created opportunities for DeGreve, aside from her new full-time job working for John Deere dealer parts.
“I’ve been crazy busy this month for Suicide Prevention Month, and I have some really big speaking engagements coming up that I am beyond thrilled about and also a little nervous. The one this weekend is my biggest audience yet, and I’m a little nervous about it.”
“When you’re a mental health advocate and someone who fights for suicide prevention every day, the month of September can almost be a little frustrating, just because you see the outpouring of love from the community during this month, but then it’s like once October rolls around, it seems like it dies down.”
DeGreve is the social media manager for Foster’s Voice, and leads Facebook Live events for the group every other Wednesday.
“This year seems like it’s a lot different, just because I think with the pandemic happening, Covid, racial tensions in our country; a lot of different things that have happened in 2020, I think people are really suffering.”
She says people are struggling with not being able to meet in person, like in support groups. They’re trying to stay connected virtually, like Saturday’s summit.
“Still being able to have the ability to participate in discussions like this in the virtual realm is still important. There are some positives coming from it, but I am also a huge advocate for having that face-to-face interpersonal interaction. I think people really need that.”
On Tuesday night, Sept. 22, she was part of an online panel, “Hope in the Dark,” with a friend who reached out after she was on Hines’ podcast. Another keynote speaker on Saturday is Robin Williams’ son, Zak. The comedian and film star, Williams took own life in 2014 at age 63, after struggling with Lewy body dementia.
DeGreve also is happy the U.S. House and Senate recently approved the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, to go to the president for signing. The new 988 number won’t be available until 2022. The current hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
“Transitioning to the three-digit 988 is meaningful in two ways. One, it shows on the national level that suicide is becoming more of a priority. A lot of officials have finally been standing up and saying, this suicide number going to 988 should be just as important as 911.”
“Having the 988 number is going to be easy to advocate for and going to help people in those crisis moments to remember, right away, 988.”
This Sunday is the annual fundraising walk in Bettendorf for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. People can walk in a group or on their own. To register, visit afsp.org/quadcitiesia.