The Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors (AOH) has been recognized by ratings organization GreatNonprofits as a 2011 Top-Rated Health Nonprofit– earning the highest spot for a newcomer on the list, and the number two spot overall.
The ranking honors AOH’s work to help people cope with the shock, excruciating grief, and complex emotions that occur when a loved one dies by suicide.
During a June national campaign, GreatNonprofits, in cooperation with GuideStar and Charity Navigator, gathered reviews of 369 organizations from thousands of clients, donors and volunteers. AOH garnered a near perfect five-star rating.
According to the World Health Organization, there are one million suicides in the world each year and one suicide every 15 minutes in the United States. For each victim, eight others suffer a devastating grief that is not well-understood by most professionals, let alone the general public.
“The outpouring of gratitude expressed in our reviews reaffirms the need for our services and the difference we’re making. It inspires us to want to do more,” said Ronnie Walker, founding director of AOH and a licensed clinical mental health counselor who lost her stepson to suicide in 1995.
AOH is based online at http://www.allianceofhope.org, offering services that transcend time and distance – often reaching suicide grievers in places where little or no support exists. Services include a clinically-moderated forum, live consultations for new grievers, and a website that features a blog, bookstore, memorials, and a special section for those in uniform.
The AOH community forum operates like a 24/7/365 support group for new and longtime grievers, also known as “suicide survivors.” It hosts thousands of members from around the world, with more than 30,000 posts covering all aspects of the survivor experience. It brings together people from many cultures and faith traditions – offering useful information as well as empathy, hope, and friendship. The forum is carefully tended by a mental health counselor and trained team of veteran-survivor moderators. Many members call it their “lifeline.”
Walker, a 64 year-old grandmother of four, launched AOH in 2008 from her kitchen in Evanston, Illinois. She took a class in web design at the local high school and wrote and built the website herself. It is now a leading resource for suicide survivors worldwide. Approximately 15,000 people visit AOH’s site each month, and the nonprofit has drawn interest from people in more than 105 countries.
"I started AOH to expand the quality of support for people dealing with the debilitating, traumatic pain that accompanies loss to suicide. I have been moved by the courage, compassion, and commitment of our members who, together, have created a very special place of connection,” said Walker. “My goal is to ensure every survivor has the support they need.”
Ninety percent of AOH's reviews on GreatNonprofits came from suicide survivors served by the nonprofit.
“In many dark hours I have gained comfort, hope, support and validation from other suicide survivors as they share their journey,” said a client of AOH. “Many times, I have been able to make it another day because of the many posts and the kind of support available.”
Heather Shadur is President of Shadur Communications. She serves on the Board of the Alliance of Hope. Heather lost her stepbrother to suicide in 1995.