Senate President Spilka and Brunzell Recognized For Work To Prevent Suicides

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention recognized six individuals or organizations as leaders in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts at the State House in Boston on Tuesday, March 12.

The Coalition presented “Leadership in Suicide Prevention” awards in the Great Hall at the State House.

Among the honorees was Senate President Karen Spilka, a Democrat from Ashland.

“Spilka was elected Senate President in 2018 and one of her top priorities, both personally and as a legislator, has been mental health care. In the Senate she has worked to find creative ways to reduce stigmas around mental health treatment and move towards parity in the treatment of mental and physical health,” said the Coalition. “Senate President Spilka has also been instrumental in securing an increase in public health funding for critical suicide prevention services.”

““As we fight for the future of our Commonwealth, we must make the care of our mental health as routine as the care of our physical health, and address suicide prevention,” said Senate President Spilka. “I’m honored to receive the Massachusetts Leadership in Suicide Prevention Award and I pledge to work tirelessly to achieve true mental health parity and find creative ways to integrate preventative mental health care into our health care system.”

Barbara Brunzell of West Boylston was another honoree. She is aloss survivor who helped launch LOSSteam Metrowest, the first program in the state where volunteers respond directly to the scene of a suicide death, to provide assistance and comfort to families.”

“Barbara spent more than a year of her own time researching, collaborating, and training to bring this program to Massachusetts together with Call2Talk and the Metrowest Suicide Prevention Coalition. In the spring of 2017, the LOSSteam Metrowest launched in Ashland and now encompasses six trained volunteers and five additional partnering police stations. The LOSS in LOSSteam stands for Local Outreach to SuicideSurvivors,” said the Coalition.

She is pictured here with Ashland (and Framingham) State Rep. Jack Patrick Lewis. (photo courtesy)

Another honoree was WCVB-TV news anchor Maria Stephanos, who lives in Foxboro.

“Maria has been a strong advocate for suicide prevention both on-and-off the air. On her broadcasts on WCVB-TV Ch. 5, she has invited suicide prevention experts to discuss critical stories, and often checks in with advocates minutes before air time to review safe messaging and helpline resources to share with viewers. Maria’s diligence help protect viewers who may be survivors, or at-risk of suicide. Maria has also keynoted the Annual Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Conference and participated in a panel to discuss media and reporting on suicides. Maria also frequently responds to viewers who reach out to her on social media with resources and messages of hope,” said the Coalition.

The other honoree included:

Caitlin Caruso, of Dracut.
“For the past two years, Caitlyn, 27, has spoken publicly about her suicide attempt, which followed bullying, substance use and other childhood traumas. Her message of hope and encouragement that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of, has spread hope across Massachusetts. Caitlyn has shared this message through major speaking engagements, such as the Annual Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Conference; at a high school in front of 300 freshman; and through interviews with the Lowell Sun and the Boston Herald. Her advice: ask for help, keep going until you find the right help, find what you love to do, and do it no matter what,” said the Coalition.

Riley DiPillo, Northampton.

“A junior at Smith Academy in Hatfield, Riley lost his sister Laura to suicide when he was just 12 years-old. Since then, he has become an advocate for suicide prevention in memory of his sister, and has raised more than $18.000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) through various charity events. Riley mobilized a team of nearly 50 students to participate in a walk for the AFSP in Western Mass. He also helped to launch a program for Smith Academy students in 2018 in partnership with The Garden: A Center of Grieving for Children and Teens. Riley has also been deeply involved with the YMCA Teen Leaders club, raising money and organizing activities. March 12 would have been his sister’s 20th birthday,” said the Coalition.

Wentworth Institute of Technology, OneWIT Program 

“Wentworth Institute of Technology launched OneWIT, a six-week training program that gives students the tools to combat isolation, learn about depression, and provide interventions and referrals to their peers that may be at risk of suicide. The goal of the program is to expand and enrich its campus support network so every member of the community is looking out for each other. Data collected from OneWIT’s pre-and post-training show significant stigma reductions in students’ perception of seeking mental health help. Over the two years the program has been in operation, 143 students have been nominated for participation and 67 students self-selected to be part of the program this past year,” said the Coalition.

The Coalition works to create a Commonwealth where everyone is involved in breaking the silence around suicide. Through statewide advocacy and collaboration, the Coalition is working hard to prevent suicide.  Learn more at

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: Phone: 508-315-7176

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