Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. Find opportunities in your community at Serve.gov.
As President of the Board of Directors of the nonprofit organization SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), my job is very different than that of my day job. AT SAVE I am a volunteer, a collaborator and consensus builder. I need to stay focused on the mission of the organization, not the bottom line as in most businesses. As a nonprofit organization we are accountable to many regulations and rules, yet we remain steadfast in our goal of staying true to what our values and goals are. We worry less about the dollars and more about the impact. These are the things that inspire me to nonprofit leadership.
Mental illnesses impact millions of Americans every year. Tragically, some of those living with these illnesses die at their own hand after a long, difficult battle. At SAVE we believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. We believe that mental illnesses are treatable and that suicide is preventable. Raising awareness that help is available, educating people that they too can be part of the solution and being a support system when all else has seemed to fail are the things that we do best to make a difference. None of these are easy in a field that does not yet have enough solid research to help direct programmatic efforts, is filled with stigma, and too often leaves those who are struggling with few places to turn.
I came to SAVE to give back. My goal was to offer my skills to help find a way for a small organization to make a big difference. That difference would be saving lives, and that is what we do at SAVE each and every day. We may not hear about all of the people we have saved, but we continue to find new, innovative approaches to suicide prevention that are leading the field, nationally and internationally.
As a Champion of Change I would challenge everyone to find that one cause that means the most to you and dive in and help. There are thousands of nonprofit organizations in this country looking for your help, needing your guidance and support. These agencies do not have the financial resources to do all that they want to, but they have a passion and desire to change the world. I know we do at SAVE, and I encourage everyone to give back to their community and their nation as I and the other members of our all volunteer Board of Directors do. Your time and talent are a treasure to a nonprofit, and speaking from experience, offering that type of leadership to an organization dedicated to saving lives is one of the most rewarding experiences you can ever have.
Joe Stackhouse is President of the Board of Directors of SAVE.