When most of us think about the leading causes of death in the United States, we generally come up with heart disease and cancer. Most likely because those are the number one and two contributors to death, respectively, in the country. Not to mention, among the most talked about as far as awareness, prevention and treatment are concerned. But there’s another killer that makes the list—suicide, or as the CDC puts it “intentional self-harm.”
I know there are a decent number of mental health funders in the United States doing good work such as raising awareness, funding research, development innovative treatments, and erasing stigma. But there are comparatively few that speak directly to suicide.
The Danny Alberts Foundation is a notable in this space. Danny Alberts is described as a “kind, generous, intelligent, and multi-talented individual,” who suffered from bipolar disorder. Like many who suffer from mental illness, very few people knew of his suffering. Before he died, he asked his loved ones and friends to “do something that would help bring about significant changes in treatment and offer greater hope to others who suffer from bipolar disorder.” The result of that request was the Danny Alberts Foundation.
The foundation seeks to “support cutting edge research in applying mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) in treating bipolar patients with a history of suicidal ideation and attempts.” Its mission is to discover more effective evidence-based bipolar disorder treatments, and inform patients, their care providers, and the public of those innovative treatments. Alberts currently focuses its funding on MBCT studies, perinatal women with depression, and high risk youth.
As for the money Alberts dedicates to research, those numbers are near impossible to come by. The foundation does not specify how grantseekers apply for funding or whether or not it accepts unsolicited letters of inquiry. The best bet for would-be grantees is to get in touch with foundation staff to discuss their work.
Another, perhaps more accessible funder that is shining a spotlight directly on suicide prevention is the Nick Traina Foundation.
Founded in 1998 by author Danielle Steel, whose son Nick suffered from bipolar disorder (formerly referred to as manic depression) and committed suicide at the age of 19, the foundation aims to “make a meaningful contribution in the field of mental illness.” To those ends, the foundation awards modest grants to organizations that are involved in all aspects of bipolar disorder suicide prevention, including diagnosis, research, education, family support, and outreach programs.
Grants tend to range from $10,000 to $35,000 and tend to go to smaller, community-based organizations based in the San Francisco Bay area due to the “overwhelming amount of proposals received.”
Finally, while the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation directs much of its mental health and suicide prevention and awareness grants toward groups working with U.S. military personnel, it deserves a mention. Not only because the BMS Foundation backs non-military related suicide prevention outfits like Suicide International (which received a $700,000 grant from the foundation) but because vets, who make up less than 10 percent of the population, account for nearly 20 percent of all suicides in the country. Also, the risk of suicide for vets is around 21 percent higher than that of civilians.
There’s a cavernous gap in healthcare when it comes to mental health. For anyone who has had to traverse this maze of red tape, declinations from insurance companies to cover the cost of needed care, or have had to argue with hospital staff or doctors about mental health care plans or medications, you know what I’m talking about. For anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide, you know what I’m talking about. And for those whose lives have been touched by mental illness, you too, know what I’m talking about. And as someone who has been experienced all of the above, I know how you feel.
Although there is an entire month dedicated to raising awareness and the prevention of suicide, and while nearly 43,000 Americans die each year by suicide and for every one person that succeeds, 25 make an attempt, it’s still talked about in hushed tones. Isn’t it way past time for this to stop?