Building Community and Hope for Suicide Survivors in Boston

Toy Burton never planned to start a nonprofit. In 2017, a friend reached out asking her to speak to a suicide loss survivor, and Toy, who is both a suicide loss and attempt survivor, began searching for resources to offer as follow up. She couldn’t find any located in her community—Roxbury, MA—or that centered survivors of color. “To me, it wasn’t acceptable,” Toy says, “I decided, I’m going to create something that is accessible to my community.”

Toy founded DeeDee’s Cry—named in honor of her sister, Denita Shayne Morris—that same year. She began with a suicide awareness event and went on to facilitate BIPOC-focused panels on an array of mental health topics. Today, DeeDee’s Cry hosts multiple community events per year, including the annual Mental Health While Black Summit, as well as virtual support groups for loss survivors, attempt survivors, and those healing from trauma. 

Toy says, “The foundation of everything that we do is bringing people together… to build a sense of family, connectedness.” 

Toy with Michael Davis of Samaritans at Roxbury Unity Parade
Toy Burton and Michael Davis of Samaritans at the 2023 Roxbury Unity Parade.

Over the past year, Samaritans began working with Toy to support the BIPOC community. We were a sponsor and resource table host at the Roxbury Unity Parade last July. In September 2023, we co-hosted a discussion on gun safety and suicide prevention with DeeDee’s Cry, the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, and the MGH Center for Gun Violence Prevention. Currently, Samaritans is serving as an advisory partner in the development of a LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) Team for families in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan, funded by the Boston Public Health Commission. The DeeDee’s Cry LOSS team will provide compassionate listening and timely resources to families following a suicide, in coordination with first responders. 

As a loss survivor herself, Toy knows how important this immediate connection can be. “I remember when the police came and told my family that my sister died by suicide,” she says.  “There were no resources, there was no compassion, there was nothing.”  

As an important first step, Toy developed a Boston-specific resource guide with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, another partner. The guide walks families through everything from planning a burial to finding moments of affirmation and includes Samaritans resources.  

“Toy is revolutionizing what suicide prevention looks like in her community. Samaritans is honored to work alongside DeeDee’s Cry, and we look forward to continued partnership,” says Kacy Maitland, Samaritans Chief Clinical Officer. 

When we’re in community—sharing a meal, music—it does provide support. Though the topic may be heavy, we always end with hope.

Support Boston Survivors

DeeDee’s Cry is currently seeking volunteers for the Boston LOSS Team.