My role as the Executive Director of Samaritans started at the beginning of December 2019. Due to the pandemic, we made the decision 18 weeks ago to close our physical office on West Street. As such, I have now been a remote leader for longer than on-site! I am thinking a lot about that these days, as work-from-home continues, as the fiscal year wrapped up, and as I think about my vision for the future of Samaritans. It is making for a unique first year but I am so glad I’m here.
As we put ideas into goals and objectives for the short term, we are also developing our vision for the future of Samaritans: What are the needs? How will we continue to pivot and develop to do more in the future? What will virtual allow us to achieve? What are the big ideas? If you’d like to share your thoughts, I invite you to take this brief survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/5C269N5.
What I continue to admire and respect most about Samaritans is the overwhelming dedication to serving the people who need our services, along with the devoted people who make it happen – volunteers, staff, Board members, Council members, donors, partners, and foundations. Each person plays a crucial role in making sure that we achieve our mission every day. I am so glad we are here for those who need us, grateful new people are finding us so we can support them, and proud that no matter the challenges, we’re doing the work we need to do.
This past Saturday, I joined in for part of a Zoom meeting with our Grief Support Services volunteers who facilitate our SafePlace meetings and Survivor-to-Survivor Network visits. As each told their story of why they work with us, I was once again deeply moved by their desire to help, support, care for, and comfort others. Even virtually, one could feel the energy and warmth they generously share. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, please reach out to our Grief Support Services team for their help.
With the leadership of Racial Equity Committee and the support of our Board of Directors, we have started to take action on the commitments made in our statement on racial equity and justice. We’re actively seeking out Black-owned businesses using several of the great resources that have been shared. We’re reviewing the job descriptions we have for open positions, as well as where we post them and how we screen candidates. We are also researching training opportunities while connecting with incredible people and organizations to help us learn how to become a more representative, diverse, equitable, inclusive, and just workplace. Though I am pleased with our initial efforts, we have much more to do. It will take time, but we are committed!
July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness month, “created to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the United States” (Mental Health America). Though people of all races can be at risk of having suicidal thoughts, the Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health reports that African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Unfortunately, many people struggle to reach out for help, in part because of the stigma associated with having a mental health condition and/or seeking therapy. It’s time to break the silence! I invite you to join Samaritans, InnoPsych, and Union Baptist Church for a Virtual Suicide Prevention Training with Dr. Charmain Jackman this Saturday. We understand that these conversations can be challenging, so we will create a supportive environment for a healthy discussion.
As always, if you are feeling lonely, in despair, or having thoughts of suicide, please call or text our free 24/7 Helpline at 877-870-4673.
Kathleen C. Marchi