LifeAct was founded in 1992 in Cleveland, Ohio by Lyman H. (Tim) Treadway who lost his son to suicide. For the first 12 years of its existence, it was a chapter of the research-focused American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). In 2004, with input from a scientific advisory board comprised of experts from University Hospitals Case Medical Center, the organization separated from AFSP to become the Suicide Prevention Education Alliance (SPEA), an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
In its first decade, the organization trained more than 5,000 professionals, including teachers, school counselors, social workers, physicians, nurses, clergy, and law enforcement officers, to see the warning signs of suicide and take steps to keep children safe. In 2000, SPEA’s signature and highly effective program for high school teens was launched, Recognizing Teen Depression and Preventing Suicide. To date, over 170,000 Northeast Ohio teens have been educated to recognize the warning signs of suicide in themselves and their peers, and to seek professional help. Responding to requests and recent data showing that increasingly younger children are contemplating suicide, a new middle school program (U R OK™) that mirrors the high school program with age-appropriate content is now being delivered in area middle schools.
Under the new leadership of Chief Executive Officer Jack Binder, the organization’s programs, systems, branding and messaging underwent a vigorous review in 2014. As a result, SPEA became “LifeAct” in late 2014 with a new visual identity, messaging and materials that better conveyed the organization’s pro-active, positive approach to promoting life by preventing suicide. To strengthen the link to referral treatment and follow-up services for area teens, LifeAct entered into a partnership with Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital of University Hospitals and FrontLine Service.
To extend its reach, continue dialogue after programming, and provide target audience feedback, LifeAct established a Youth Advisory Board in 2011. Currently, 30 high school students from 13 schools across Northeast Ohio are members. These teen leaders raise awareness about teen depression and suicide among their peers through social media, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, an IPhone App and YouTube. Advisory Board members also act as a sounding board for programming, marketing materials, website and in-school literature. Youth Advisory Board members are some of LifeAct’s biggest supporters, organizing fellow students and schools to establish Into the Light Walk teams that raise funds and awareness for LifeAct’s suicide prevention programming.