Angela Perry has been instrumental in Oregon’s advocacy efforts for the past several years, helping to lead successful efforts on bills related to support for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, as well as for suicide prevention training for mental health professionals.
Angela has experienced multiple suicide losses throughout her life, including her uncle, an aunt, and several friends. She has also faced her own mental health struggles.
Her introduction to AFSP came in the form of an invitation from a friend to an Out of the Darkness Walk. That Walk’s Honor Bead Ceremony, in which others shared their own experiences, was the moment she realized she was not alone in her thoughts, and decided to get help. She also emailed her local AFSP chapter to express an interest in volunteering.
“I knew very little about advocacy prior to attending the Advocacy Forum in 2018. It was only a few months after my aunt died — but my family decided she would want to help others. I went into a meeting with one of Senator Ronald Wyden’s aides. Coincidentally, that aide had been impacted by suicide. After talking, the aide walked me down the hall and pulled the Senator from a meeting to hear my story! Me — someone who did not feel any self-worth at the time — the Senator saw differently. After that meeting, I was invited to participate in Town Halls and press conferences to share my story and discuss the importance of access to healthcare and behavioral health.
I began to realize my story had value and that it was possible to make a difference. My story, my losses and my journey with chronic suicidal ideation have helped people. When mental health professionals go to school they get a couple weeks — maybe — of suicide-related training. I went to counseling off and on for decades, and it was not until connecting with a counselor at the beginning of the pandemic that I was asked for the first time if I was suicidal. She was the first one to push through when things got hard to talk about. And she was the first one to tell me I was strong instead of weak. By sharing my ‘ugly truths,’ I helped to pass a law in Oregon that requires mental health professionals to get suicide prevention training. To me, advocacy is about finding your voice and self-worth, and taking back ownership of the things you once viewed as shameful, and using that for good.
To me, advocacy is about finding your voice and your self worth, and using that for good.
After attending that Advocacy Forum, I saw it as my mission to bring an event like that to Oregon. My chapter empowered me to plan our first State Capitol Day, and we’ve had it every year since! I now serve on the executive committee of the Oregon Alliance for Suicide Prevention as a lived experience expert and co-chair of the equity committee. I have testified for several bills, shared my input on legislation that has passed, helped to create the Adult Suicide Intervention / Prevention Plan for Oregon, and updated the Youth Suicide Intervention / Prevention Plan.
Testifying in person at the Oregon State Capitol to advocate suicide prevention training for mental health professionals was a powerful experience. The room was packed, and there was a secondary room that was also full. I sat at a desk with a microphone and shared my story. I was able to see tears in people’s eyes. I could tell what I was saying was making an impact. When I finished, I felt empowered.
Sharing my voice as an advocate is how I’m helping to talk away the dark, for myself and others.”