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Group Working to Break the Stigma of Suicide

January 23, 2019 GMT

LOWELL -- People wouldn’t say the word “suicide” 10 years ago, Nancy Cook reflected last week.

That stigma is breaking, she feels, as her suicide prevention group raises boatloads of money each year in the hope of saving lives.

Cook’s group, Team Forever Young, raised more than $100,000 last year for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention -- and the Westford-based group is now planning a gala next month to raise more money for AFSP.

The “Team Forever Young Celebration” is set for Feb. 9 at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center. There will be dinner, music and raffles, all to bring awareness to suicide prevention. Lowell Sun Charities is the presenting sponsor.


“We believe in AFSP’s mission to decrease suicides and save lives,” said Cook, captain of Team Forever Young.

Her friend Billy Duggan was a Westford cop who took his own life a decade ago.

In 10 years, Team Forever Young has raised $460,633.

Lowell High School student Anna Aslanian, 16, took her own life in October after getting relentlessly bullied in school. Cook said her group wants to work with schools on suicide prevention.

“Kids need to have a place to talk,” Cook said. “They need to know there’s help, a shoulder to cry on.”

Speakers at the gala include Robert Gebbia, AFSP’s executive director.

He said he’s looking forward to talking to those who have been very supportive of AFSP’s efforts to prevent suicides.

“No public health issue has been addressed without good science behind it,” Gebbia said. “So it’s critical we work toward research and education and advocacy of better policies to address this problem.”

Another speaker will be Kristin Leary, a former Chelmsford police officer who speaks to public-safety officers about her trauma. She was involved in two officer-involved shootings during her 18 years on the force.

She’s now trying to break the PTSD stigma for first responders.

“It’s OK to ask for help,” Leary said. “It’s OK to talk about it.”

The gala on Feb. 9 will start at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $50.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.eventbrite.com and search for Team Forever Young Celebration.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.