Rep. Susan Wild, a freshman Pennsylvania Democrat, revealed her partner’s recent death was a suicide and said she is sharing her story because “I do not want anyone else to suffer.”
“Today marks the one-month anniversary of the death of my beloved life partner, Kerry Acker. What most people don’t know is that Kerry’s death was a suicide,” Wild said in an emotional speech on the House floor Wednesday night.
“Kerry was 63 years old. He shouldn’t have had a care in the world. He was financially secure and had a warm, loving family and dozens of friends. He loved them all,” Wild said.
“And yet, incomprehensibly, he seemingly did not grasp the toll his absence would have on those who loved him,” Wild said.
Wild, who represents Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, said she was sharing her “very personal story” because “we all need to recognize that mental health issues know no boundaries.”
“To anyone out there who is struggling, I’m urging you to reach out,” Wild said. “There are people who love you and who will suffer more than you know if they lose you.”
Wild said “help is available 24/7” through 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.
“I do not want anyone else to suffer as he suffered, nor for any family to suffer as mine has over the past month,” Wild said.
Wild said “this is a national emergency” and cited statistics on rising suicides and suicide attempts in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a leading cause of death in the US, and suicide rates have increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016.
Wild said every community in the US “has been touched in some way by major mental health challenges,” and said, “removing the stigma cannot just be a slogan.”
“We need to make it real through our actions,” Wild said, which means “building a future where people truly understand that they should feel no more shame over seeking treatment for this disease than they would seeking treatment for any other disease or medical condition.”
CNN’s Austen Bundy contributed to this report.