On Wednesday night, Pennsylvania Congresswoman Susan Wild gave a brief but impassioned speech in the House chamber. After revealing that her partner’s death, exactly one month earlier, had been a suicide, Wild called for legislators to address the “national emergency” of people coping with mental health issues. Read the full text of her speech.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As some are aware, today marks the one-month anniversary of the death of my beloved life partner, Kerry Acker. What most people don’t know is that Kerry’s death was a suicide.
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. He loved them all. And yet, incomprehensibly, he seemingly did not grasp the toll his absence would have on those who loved him.
Why am I sharing this very personal story? 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 any family to suffer as mine has over the past month.
This is a national emergency. In 2017, there were more than 47,000 suicides in this country, and more than 1.4 million suicide attempts. Across our country, suicides rose by 30 percent between 1999 and 2018. Behind these numbers are grieving partners and spouses, parents and children, siblings, friends and relatives. Every community in our country has been touched in some way by major mental health challenges.
Removing the stigma cannot just be a slogan. We need to make it real through our actions. That means building a future where people truly understand that they should feel no more shame over seeking treatment for this disease than they would seeking treatment for any other disease or medical condition.
To anyone out there who is struggling: I’m urging you to reach out. There are people who love you and who will suffer more than you know if they lose you. Help is available 24/7 through 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK.
To anyone who is concerned about someone in their lives, please pick up the phone or take that drive to go see them. Don’t wait. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I yield back.