American Foundation for Suicide Prevention by Professor Katherine Tong

My husband, Barney Tong, and I sat in the audience at Saddleback Church, and listened to Pastor Rick Warren talk about his son, Matthew, who suffered from a mental illness. He died by suicide in 2013. As we listened and cried, I thought thank goodness our children are OK. Unfortunately, 6 months after we heard the devastating news about Pastor and Kay Warren’s son, the unthinkable happened. Evan Tong, Barney’s son, my stepson, died by suicide in WA, on December 28, 2013. 

Evan was only 17 when he died. Evan loved video games, reading, and swimming. Hundreds of family, friends, school faculty, and community members came to remember Evan at his memorial services in WA and CA. Barney and I received comfort, support, and love during this difficult time from God first, our families, friends, our Bible study group, and colleagues. However, we lost friends because of the stigma associated with suicide. Others did not want to engage in discussion about Evan. 

Joining the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has helped us immensely. AFSP is the “leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.” AFSP mentions that “there is no single cause to suicide. It most

often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition. Suicide can happen at any time and unfortunately when one least expects it.” Suicide can affect anyone and unfortunately, during this pandemic, anxiety and depression rates have increased, therefore increasing the risk for suicide (Sher, 2020).  Also, Pastor Rick Warren mentioned, "There's no shame when any other organ in your body fails, so why do we feel shame if our brain is broken?”

Barney and I volunteered or walked in the Out of the Darkness Walks (Seattle, Boston, Fountain Valley, Pasadena, and San Francisco) to benefit AFSP. We walk for countless others who died by suicide or who are affected by suicide. Our friend, Chris Atencio, a veteran of the US Army, also died by suicide not long after Evan died. Students and I volunteered at the First Aid booth at the AFSP walks.

To be a part of this worthy cause, please visit AFSP at

This website has a lot of great information regarding the warning signs of suicide, risk factors, treatment, etc.  Also, the Orange County Out of the Darkness Walk will be held on October 24, 2020. Please join us to show the world we are always #TogetherToFightSuicide!

National Suicide Prevention Month is during September too!

If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911 immediately.

With hope,

Kathy Tong