Whitney Shumway’s connection to the cause began at the age of 19, when she experienced suicidal thoughts while enduring postpartum depression. In later years, Whitney learned after the fact that she had lost two cousins and an uncle to suicide.
But her main “Why” for volunteering is to support her son Trent, who expressed suicidal feelings as early as third grade — and who now, at 15, often joins his mom in volunteering for AFSP, gaining strength through community and the incredible example set by his mother.
“Trent was eight years old — one of the youngest kids in his class — and was being bullied hard. You can imagine how difficult it was to get him to go to school. One cool fall morning, he said, 'I just can’t do it anymore, Mom.' I told him I knew it was hard at school, but that he had to go — and he yelled, crying, 'No, Mom you don’t understand. I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up again.' I stopped in my tracks.
I called out of work, called the school, and kept him home. We soon found a counselor. But I also started looking for other resources and ways to show him support. It was at this time that I found AFSP.
I started by attending and getting involved with our local Community Walk, and I brought Trent with me. To see my community come together – and watching my son notice how many people of various ages in our community struggle, and support each other – was overwhelming and so moving. We found hope together.
To see my community come together was overwhelming and so moving. We found hope together.
I now serve as the Missouri board chair and Education/Programs Committee chair for our chapter. I feel that providing suicide prevention education is what I am meant to do. Our chapter offers programs including It’s Real: Teens and Mental Health, More than Sad for parents and educators, Soul Shop for faith communities, and AFSP’s flagship education program Talk Saves Lives, which has modules for seniors, workplaces, firearms owners and retailers, LGBTQ people, and the corrections environment.
The programs for children and youth mean a great deal to me. They encourage conversations about what a mental health challenge is, how to get help, and what self-care is. Talk Saves Lives is an introduction to suicide prevention for adults. I, and other trained volunteers, present these programs throughout Missouri. We can train just about anyone with a desire to present.
As the Education/Programs Committee chair, I hold monthly committee meetings, provide guidance and updates to committee members regarding the programs we offer, train volunteers, and work to create partnerships throughout the state to elevate our work.
I’ve made it my goal to work on chapter development – and I’m proud to say that together, as a team effort with our chapter staff and volunteers, we have tripled the Missouri Chapter’s programing and outreach since 2021. I have also represented our chapter as a member of the Missouri Suicide Prevention Network's Community Coalitions Support Committee, where I work closely with coalitions around the state and train them to present AFSP programs.
Our involvement with AFSP truly fills my cup. Trent helps plan and volunteers at Walks. He creates shirts and stickers for fundraisers. He attends State Capitol Days, and even played a role in getting the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number added to student IDs in Missouri. The Lieutenant Governor told me we need to bring more young people like him, because they listen to the youth more than us adults!
Trent and I have both found a chosen family with AFSP — and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am doing what I am meant to.”