September is National Suicide Prevention month. In light of this, I rise to ask the House of Representatives to join me in recognizing Joani Moller, the Area Director for the Iowa Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as our Iowan of the Week.
In Iowa, one person dies by suicide every 18 hours. It is the second leading cause of death amongst people ages 15-34 and is the ninth leading cause of death in the state overall. Iowa finds itself in a particularly concerning situation as farmers remain at highest risk of death by suicide. And as we continue to see the effects of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health across the board, suicide rates are an immediate concern.
Thankfully, we have people like Joani Moller dedicated to the mission of eliminating suicides in Iowa. After 20 years of non-profit work, Joani became Area Director of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP) Iowa Chapter just over a year ago. In the short time since, she has managed to build their board, collaborate with new community organizations to support their suicide awareness and fundraising events, and build coalitions with other suicide prevention organizations in Polk County. She is inspired by her volunteers’ dedication to the mission of AFSP and the stories they share with her. “When I started for AFSP, it was shocking to me how many people’s lives have been touched by suicide,” said Joani. At the age of 18, she too experienced the loss of her boyfriend when he took his life.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Iowa is a grassroots organization that focuses on eliminating death by suicide through programming, events, and providing vital resources to Iowans in need. Their programs educate people from different backgrounds about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide. They also work hard to raise much-needed funds for research and programs that provide support to people who have lost individuals to suicide.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, ASFP’s Iowa Chapters have successfully transitioned their in-person programming to virtual offerings, providing over 500 presentations in just four months. They have also created an additional program: Enhancing Mental Health during COVID-19.
Preventing suicides is no small task. Joani believes that continuing to have conversations is a critical part of suicide prevention as it destigmatizes the topic and makes people more comfortable confronting it. As new obstacles continue to present themselves during this pandemic, we are fortunate and grateful to have people like her running vital organizations in Iowa. While Joani humbly credits the success of ASFP to her volunteers, we know it would not be the organization that it is today without her dedication towards its success and the elimination of suicide in the state of Iowa.
It is my honor to recognize Joani Moller as our Iowan of the Week. I will continue to work in Congress to ensure everyone has access to accessible and affordable health and mental health care so that Joani’s goal of zero suicides becomes a reality.