Friends for Survival, Inc. (FFS), a nonprofit organization, was organized in Sacramento, California, in the fall of 1982 by two mothers, Chris Moon and Marilyn Koenig, following the suicide deaths of their sons.
In the past 16 years, nearly 500,000 Americans have ended their lives by suicide, the eighth leading cause of death. Suicide has exceeded the number of homicides every year since 1981. Since approximately 81% of the suicides are males, the survivors are often wives and children. Research has shown that following a suicide, surviving family members are also at a higher risk for suicide themselves. Accurate information, referral, support and encouragement are essential to these families.
FFS is a grassroots national nonprofit outreach program. Participation is open to those who have lost a family member or friends by suicide and also to professionals who work with those who have been touched by a suicide tragedy. FFS, organized by and for survivors, has been offering services since 1983.
This total volunteer organization is dedicated to providing a variety of unique peer support services to those in grief, encouraging healing and growth, and fostering the development of skills to cope with a loss and educate the community regarding the impact of suicide. A wide variety of free services are offered to each family that contact FFS, including a Suicide Loss Helpline with an 800 number. This national 800 number, established in 1997, is the only one available exclusively for those grieving a suicide death.
Since 1982, FFS has provided immediate, direct assistance and referral to more than 4,000 grieving families. They have distributed more than 300,000 monthly newsletters and held more than 500 support meetings. In addition, they also organize all-day conferences, workshops, and retreats. They have developed and conducted training workshops for chaplains, law enforcement officials, teachers, therapists, and mental health professionals. Volunteers have also participated in research projects.
During 1998, volunteers created a memorial quilt that has been displayed at national conferences and national press conferences highlighting the tragedy of suicide. Also in 1998, FFS became a national organization offering support, comfort, encouragement and education. It is now possible to have FFS chapters across the country, something many families had been requesting.
Now, with the support and encouragement of FFS, these families are publicly expressing their grief in a positive way, with confidence that their sharing will promote suicide prevention and better health care for those suffering from depression. They continue to sew memorial quilt patches to put a face to the tragedy of suicide and to share that face with their communities.