Congresswoman Susan Wild calls for more mental health awareness after life partner's suicide

 

A month after Congresswoman Susan Wild lost her life partner to suicide she is calling for heightened awareness of mental health issues. The Democratic Lehigh Valley representative says suicide is a national emergency and more needs to be done to prevent it from happening.

69 News' Josh Rultenberg spoke with Wild who says she is still very much mourning the loss of 63-year-old Kerry Acker.

He asked her why she decided to make that speech Tuesday night. She told him while she has this platform she has to use it to affect positive change.

She fought back tears as she revealed her partner's suicide on the House floor. Wild says from the outside, Acker had it all: financial security, a loving family and dozens of friends. They were also together the last 17 years, which has caused a deeper pain.

"I don't want anyone else to suffer as he suffered nor for any family to suffer as mine has over the past month," she said.

When Acker passed, Wild says she did some research on suicide.

"I started reading the numbers, I was appalled," she said on the phone.

The CDC says suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the US, and that its rate has increased by 33 percent from 1999 to 2017.

In the Lehigh Valley, 38 people have already ended their own lives this year. Lisa Cozzi and Sue Wandalowski are working daily to reverse the trend in Lehigh and Northampton Counties.

"We always say just ask the question, are you having suicidal thoughts and ask more than once," says Cozzi.

"There's an overwhelming number of people who suffer from anxiety and depression. Not necessarily to the point that anybody would know that they're being impacted by those things," says Wandalowski.

They say it starts with talking about it.

"Removing the stigma cannot just be a slogan. We need to make it real through our actions," Wild said on the floor.

The congresswoman was applauded for her bravery Tuesday. She hopes it will inspire others with mental health issues to come forward.

"If I can save one life it's worth it," she said on the phone.

Wild says she has heard from countless people since her speech went viral. She says it gives her comfort knowing there is actually some good that can come out of her partner's passing.

If you feel like you need help or know someone that does call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-237-TALK.

The Lehigh County Crisis Intervention can be reached at 610-782-3127.