The membership of AAS includes mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center volunteers, survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, and a variety of lay persons who have in interest in suicide prevention.

How We Accomplish These
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AAS Mission Statement

To promote the understanding and prevention of suicide and support those who have been affected by it.

AAS Vision Statement

We are an inclusive community that envisions a world where people know how to prevent suicide and find hope and healing.

Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business

We accomplish this mission by directing efforts to:

  • Advance Suicidology as a science; encouraging, developing and disseminating scholarly work in suicidology.
  • Encourage the development and application of strategies that reduce the incidence and prevalence of suicidal behaviors.
  • Compile, develop, evaluate and disseminate accurate information about suicidal behaviors to the public.
  • Foster the highest possible quality of suicide prevention, intervention and postvention to the public.
  • Publicize official AAS positions on issues of public policy relating to suicide.
  • Promote research and training in suicidology.

Founded in 1968 by Edwin S. Shneidman, PhD, AAS promotes research, public awareness programs, public education and training for professionals and volunteers. In addition, AAS serves as a national clearinghouse for information on suicide. Learn more about AAS’s history.

AAS, a not-for-profit organization, encourages and welcomes both individual and organizational members.

AAS is an Equitable Organization

AAS believes in equity for our members and in our services. From the leadership team, the Board of Directors, to our staff and committees, equity is a priority from the top down.

July 2019 Recommendations on Addressing Inclusivity/Equity of its Members


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Executive Transition Team

American Association of Suicidology Welcomes Dr. Keita Franklin to Its  Board of Directors – American Association of Suicidology

Keita Franklin, MSW, PhD

Dr. Franklin is an accomplished senior executive who is widely credited with revolutionizing several large scale, national public health systems.  She has focused her expertise in key wellness areas to include suicide prevention, mental health, and substance abuse.  A transformational leader, Dr. Franklin has spent her 25-year career driving complex organizational and policy change in the federal sector before recently transitioning to the private sector.  She has served as a senior executive in both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), where she served as the principle advisor on all matters related to suicide prevention.  As a national leader in the suicide prevention, Dr. Franklin was responsible for leading a multi-discipline team of experts in the advancement of evidence-based prevention practices for over three million active duty members, 20 million veterans, and their families.  Dr. Franklin has represented DoD and the VA during testimony in front of both chambers of Congress and she has advised the Office of the President, the Domestic Policy Council, and the National Security Council.  An innovative leader, she spearheaded a national effort to close the gaps between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veteran Affairs by authoring a presidential Executive Order addressing critical periods of risk for servicemen, women and veterans.  A recognized expert, Dr. Franklin serves on multiple national-level committees such as the National Academies of Sciences, the Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the Fort Hood Task Force, and the American Association of Suicidology.  Since transitioning to the private sector, Dr. Franklin continues to provide Subject Matter Expertise on clinical issues for government contracts for Loyal Source Government Services.  She has also been instrumental in the advancement of mental health literacy across the nation and she has championed training on evidence-based practices with the goal of obtaining more efficacious mental health care outcomes for at-risk population groups.  Dr. Franklin has a PhD in social work from Virginia Commonweal University and an advanced certificate from the Center for Advancement of Research Methods and Analysis (CARMA).  Dr. Franklin holds certificates from Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education on “Leading Large Organizational Change”” and Women in Leadership” as well as the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School course on “Executive Leadership.”

Ms. Wendy Lakso

Wendy Lakso, CPH

With over 25 years of experience in the public and private sector, Wendy Lakso has dedicated her career to supporting military service members, veterans, and their families. A proven leader, Ms. Lakso has achieved extraordinary results while directing multidisciplinary teams created to address some of the most vexing national public health challenges. As the Deputy Executive Director for the President’s Executive Order, Ms. Lakso orchestrated the creation of the requisite infrastructure to implement the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the Tragedy of Suicide. She is also credited with establishing the DoD Suicide Prevention Outreach, Communications, and Partnership program where she established a first-of-its-kind national peer-support center of excellence. Widely respected, Ms. Lakso was the logical choice to choreograph the joint DoD-VA Suicide Prevention Conference in 2017 and 2019 setting records for attendance at both events. A trusted leader who gets results, Ms. Lakso was selected to lead the Department of Veteran Affairs Governor’s and Mayor’s Challenge where she partnered with over 35 state-level administrations to develop public health driven strategic plans designed to reduce veteran suicide.

A visionary leader, Ms. Lakso pioneered the “Resiliency Campus” concept which harmonizes components of mind, body, and spirit to address community needs following the tragic events at Fort Hood, Texas. Her transformational approach was widely identified as a best practice and subsequently mandated across all Army installations. She is masterful at assessing organizational and community gaps in wellness services and leveraging collaborative partnerships to achieve synergistic impacts. A talented communicator, Ms. Lakso is frequently sought out to speak at high profile events with federal and state entities from across the country. She has briefed several congressional members and caucuses and the appropriations committee on suicide mitigation efforts and she has twice been selected as the keynote speaker for the National Association of Counties. Ms. Lakso is a true public health expert leading across partnerships, outreach, communications, field operations, and translating research findings into implementation plans for wide scale execution.

Jennifer Tinch
Director of Trainings & Accreditation Programs

Jennifer Tinch, is the Director of Trainings & Accreditation Programs at the American Association of Suicidology. Her experience includes managing leadership, professional development, and membership programs for associations. Her background includes community college program administration, education research, as well as arts administration/education. Jennifer earned a Master’s degree in Arts Administration, and a Bachelor’s degree in Education.

Chris Maxwell
Director of Public Relations and Media

Chris has worked in the suicide prevention and and crisis intervention field for the past 13 years, in local, regional, and national levels. He is passionate about understanding suicide, harnessing the capability of technology to prevent it, and strives to advocate for the voices of those with lived experience.

His mission is to collaborate with media companies and journalists to help them effectively communicate about suicide with the general public, the research behind its prevention, and to accurately talk about the scale of the problem. Chris works fervently to build relationships with media professionals, like he’s done with Netflix, Lionsgate, CBS/Viacom, HBO, YouTube, Riot Games, Washington Post, New York Times, MTV, TODAY, Good Morning America, ESPN, RollingStone, USA Today, CNN, BuzzFeed News, Newsweek, and more. He has consistently found ways to collaborate with artists, musicians, celebrities, and advocates (e.g. Andrew W.K., Kate Nash, Rachel Bloom, Congresswoman Susan Wild, the Biden/Harris Campaign, etc.) in non-traditional ways, better connecting to the public at large and creating larger exposure for the cause.

Mr. Maxwell regularly consults on issues regarding trust and safety, mental health, and suicide prevention with technology leaders, including gaming companies, major app developers, and top-tier online video sharing and social media platforms. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Crisis Organization Directors (NASCOD). Follow him on twitter @chrsmxwll.

Sara Lycett
Program Assistant

Sara Lycett joined AAS in 2012 as a Research Assistant. Currently, she assists in the day-to-day activities of the organization, as well as providing assistance to AAS’ training programs. She attended Salisbury University where she received her BA in Psychology, and Marymount University where she received her MA in Forensic Psychology. Sara is also a former intern of AAS.

Chris Sandwell, MS, LPC, NCC, CCTP
Manager of Crisis Services Accreditation & Certification

Chris Sandwell has extensive experience as a clinician, administrator, consultant, and trainer in the behavioral health and human services fields. She has been employed with Behavioral Health Response (BHR) for over 20 years and is currently in the role of Associate Director of Compliance & Business Regulations. In her current role she is directly responsible for policies, corporate compliance, accreditation, business continuity, vendor management, HIPAA, and risk management. You may know her from her work as an ASIST Trainer, Consultant and Coach for LivingWorks.  Ms. Sandwell continues to provide Trauma Informed Care, ASIST, Naloxone, Mental Health First Aid, and Youth MHFA trainings. Her accreditation experience includes being a surveyor for CARF and American Association of Suicidology (AAS).  In April of 2021 she took on the role of Manager of Crisis Services Accreditation & Certification for AAS. In her down time, she is a proud mom of six (four kids and two Corgis) and spends her time in St. Louis or in Elkland, MO (population 1,956) with her spouse Lee.

Ariya Sonethavy
Communications Coordinator

Ariya joined AAS in 2021 as the Communications Coordinator. They previously interned for National Skills Coalition, a Washington D.C. nonprofit organization focused on workplace development. Their experience includes social media management, graphic design, communications, and public relations. Ariya attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst and received a BFA in Communications in 2020.