Joan Freeman is the founder of Solace House, a suicide prevention center in the New York Irish Center at 10-40 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City.
Freeman, a therapist and senator in Ireland, has specialized in suicide prevention therapy for the past 15 years. She founded Pieta House in Dublin in 2006, and maintains 15 international locations.
Solace House, the first location in the U.S. opened last November. The next location is opening this summer in Yonkers.
“My goal is to have a Solace House in every city in America,” said Freeman. “Fifteen years ago, Ireland would not have spoken about suicide, it was a secretive topic.
“A loved one of mine died by suicide, which catapulted me into researching this,” she added. “The research showed that suicide can happen to anyone of any age, race, or religion. It doesn't have to be because of mental illness. It can be caused by a traumatic or series of life events.”
Solace House offers personal counseling to people in need, as well as bereavement services for family members who have lost a loved one to suicide. The Solace House utilizes a proven methodology of suicide prevention.
“One of the things that makes this work really well is that our place of service is very non-clinical,” Freeman explained. “It's an environment of compassion and love, where people are accepted as they are. We often find they people in crisis don't really want to die, they just want to stop this terrible pain.”
Currently, not one client being served at Solace House has insurance. All of the services are free and confidential.
“Depression has impacted many of our lives, in our family, our friends or as individuals,” said Solace House chairman Patrick McGowan. “By providing free counseling and support to those battling motional crisis, Solace House is a beacon of hope.”
“The first step is awareness,” added Solace House board member Collie Mathers. “It is the signs that lead up to suicide that go unnoticed, and sometimes the loudest cry for help is silence.”
Solace House has two major fundraisers each year. The Suicide Awareness Golf Day is scheduled for September 10 at Rockland County Golf Club. The Solace Sunrise 5K Walk took place on May 19, in Queens and ten other locations. Donations can always be made at solacehouseinc.com.
“We want to raise awareness with the Solace Sunrise Walk, not just of our service, but to start talking about suicide and allow people to grieve openly,” said Freeman. “We give a strong message of hope that suicide can be prevented.”