The Freddi Ford Award is presented each year to a Canadian volunteer or grass-roots worker who has made an exemplary contribution by helping survivors of suicide start support programs in their communities, and by facilitating related groups and/or training activities.
Recipients are selected by a special committee of CMHA and CASP executives, to receive a $500 cash award, which is presented at the CASP Conference. This year’s winner is Danielle Berman, Founder of Ride Away Stigma.
The Story Behind the Award
Alfreda (Freddi) Ford [1925-2004], who lost a daughter to suicide, was a grass roots telecare volunteer in her community in Peterborough, Ontario. For nearly 20 years, Freddi worked as a counselor in suicide intervention and survivor support. She cared deeply that local and national health organizations recognize the support needed by the families and friends of loved ones who had died by suicide.
In the days before Freddi died of cancer, her younger daughter, Cynthia Johnston Turner, and son-in-law, Peter Frederick Turner, pledged to try to extend her work in some way. “Freddi was adamant that if anything was to be done it must be for the volunteer or grassroots workers whom she had come to know all over Canada,” says Peter. “Anyone who met Freddi remembers that she was a force.”
Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss
According to Peter, the award is meant to send a special message to its recipient and other grassroots volunteers helping survivors, saying:
“Thank you! We know how difficult your work is. We know you do this in a spirit of love and community and often with no compensation, paying travel and other costs out of your own pocket.”
“It’s not just about prevention,” Peter says. “The institutional support of CASP and CMHA means the families and friends (survivors) of individuals who died by suicide are more than ever before on the priority list.”
We asked Freddi’s daughter, Cynthia, what message Freddi would wish to pass on to the public this Survivors’ Day. “Truthfully, the pain doesn’t ever go away, but what can go away is the guilt,” she says. “Freddi would say, ‘Most people don’t know how to talk to people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Friends, co-workers and family have no idea what to do or say. The cultural and societal stigma attached to suicide inhibits compassion and even communication.’”
“To those working with grievors, mom says, ‘Please carry on!’”
Together, we will continue to support and recognize those who have contributed to helping survivors in their communities.
“Freddi got into this work because she concluded that ‘suicide will happen.’ Without discussing the complexities of how to recude the suicide rate, she did see established resources for prevention, but almost nothing for helping survivors cope,” says Peter.
“Let’s continue to get suicide out of the shadows, especially as that enables us to support survivors in our own communities,” he says. “Freddi said she wanted the Freddi Ford Fund, when it got strong enough, to support training programs offered through CASP and the CMHA, as well as travel stipends to enable survivors of suicide who might not otherwise be able to attend, to travel to CASP or CMHA conferences. This would be a way to not just recognize these grassroots workers but also to help them exchange with others to be better at what they’re doing.”
Individuals and organizations are encouraged to help build the Freddi Ford Endowment for these purposes by sending contributions payable to the CMHA (Freddi Ford Fund) at:
CMHA National Office
810-8 King Street East
If you would like to contact a member of Freddi’s family about supporting the fun, please contact son-in-law Peter Turner at [email protected].