Breakfast for Hope: One Young Champion Who’s Breaking the Stigma

Maggie Connolly is only 27 years old, but she already has volunteered, contributed to, and forwarded the mission of Samaritans for nearly a quarter of her life. For the past six years, Maggie has volunteered for and supported Samaritans, and this year she is serving as a committee member for the Breakfast for Hope, happening on May 19th. She is a young person who is breaking the stigma around mental illness and suicide with her actions, and we are honored to be able to share a little bit of her story with our community. 

She is proud of her superpower of being able to make people feel welcomed and included, and her friends describe her as courageous and compassionate. When asked why she thinks her friends chose the word “courageous” to describe her, Maggie shared that it was likely because of how she channeled her energy after losing her brother. It was then that she really drew near to Samaritans in the first place.

I lost my brother to suicide in May of 2014. The following summer I decided to use my summer internship to work at Samaritans. It forced me to take a look at what I had gone through and what my family had gone through head on and not hide from it. That’s something I was doing.  I couldn’t face the trauma of losing him, and it wasn’t quite reality for me. And most of all, I felt really alone. I think that’s where Samaritans was an incredible place for me to be that summer because I was amidst people who understood mental health and understood, many of them, personally the pain of losing someone to suicide. They made it okay to actually talk about it.”

At this same time, Maggie and her family also decided to get further involved with Samaritans by participating in the annual 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Prevention. Her sister was the captain of the team the first year, and eventually Maggie became more involved each year, eventually captaining the team, as well.  Maggie admits that the 5K run each year has become one of her favorite memories.

It’s having a group of 25-30 family and friends gather to talk about Ryan and remember him. Everyone is there right after someone dies. People forget that it doesn’t disappear after a couple months and even a couple of years. In the years after year one and two, it became even more memorable in a way because it was still a way to honor him and talk about him and openly cry about him.

And Maggie’s involvement in Samaritans hasn’t stopped there.  In addition to being an intern and a faithful participant in the annual 5K run, Maggie also now serves as a Samaritans Council Member alongside her mom Debbie, who serves on the Board of Directors. As a council member, Maggie gets to provide her input and ideas to support the overall strategy of Samaritans. And as a committee member for this year’s Breakfast for Hope, Maggie volunteers to help drive interest, attendance and financial support for the event. When asked why she cares so deeply about the Breakfast for Hope, Maggie says that this annual event is one she looks forward to every year.

It’s the one event where people can really get an understanding of what Samaritans does and why it is so important. It is a way that I can help other people get to know Samaritans and have them become familiar with this amazing organization – and to understand the impact and remind myself. The more awareness we are able to bring and the more money we are able to raise is really the more lives we are able to save. I think that’s probably my favorite part about the Breakfast for Hope.”

Maggie is also particularly excited about the theme for this year’s event: Breaking the Stigma.

I personally have had my own challenges with my mental health. The ability to share with others and to have a support group is what makes all the difference because any time you are struggling with mental health, you can feel so alone. That’s the biggest thing I think about – any way we can make people feel less alone and less ashamed about something they have no control over is just so important.”

After six years of giving so much of her time and heart to Samaritans, we asked Maggie what she most wishes people would know about mental illness and suicide.

It’s not a choice,” she said.

We thank Maggie for making the choice year after year to contribute to Samaritans’ mission. We would not be where we are today as an organization without her passion and commitment. To attend or support the Breakfast for Hope like Maggie, visit our website to get involved.