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Who We Are

The Center for Suicide Awareness is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit headquartered in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. In 2010 Barb Bigalke founded the Center and serves as the Executive Director. The Center for Suicide Awareness is dedicated to preventing suicide through proactive education, training, emotional support, collaboration, and intervention. The vision of the Center is compassionate, readily accessible, barrier free and sustained support for any individual or entity in need, while free of any mental health stigma.

The Center for Suicide Awareness brings help, hope, and resources to families and individuals in our communities through programs that reach others where they are at and when they need it most. Of the many Center programs and initiatives, bringing HOPELINE™ to all of Wisconsin, has given individuals across our state free emotional support anytime, from anywhere by simply texting: HOPELINE™ to 741741.

In addition to HOPELINE™, the Center is proactive in the fight against Veteran Suicides. Every day approximately 22 Veterans die by suicide in the US. Veterans and service men and women deserve our help and support. As a result, the Center began the “I Challenge You to 22” program with all efforts focused on getting a Challenge Coin in the hands of a Veteran that is struggling. The Center produced a Challenge Coin reflecting messages of hope, support, and encouragement to share their struggle. The Challenge Coin also has the number for HOPELINE™. Today, Police Departments across the Wisconsin and beyond are equipping their Officers with Challenge Coins to share with any Veteran that is struggling.

Our Impact

People’s reasons for thinking about suicide are diverse and complex as each individual is not the same.

 

  • We have trained thousands of people in skills that can save a person’s lives.
  • We have created over 7 Walk for Suicide Awareness across Wisconsin.
  • We have helped over 125 organizations bring Suicide Prevention training into their workplace.
  • We created an award-winning documentary called If You Only Knew What You Left Behind which won a Telly award.
  • We created an emotional support text line, HOPELINE™, which has helped thousands and has saved over 130 lives.
  • We launched Dar June (Sober-Living Facility) in 2016.
  • We mentored 3 local non-profits to create their own mission.
  • We have partnered with the video game industry and have helped thousands on our video game platforms.
  • We have trained numerous first responders in prevention and intervention techniques.
  • We are certified by the FBI Academy as Master Resilience Trainers.

Ending the Stigma & Saving Lives

The prevalence of mental health stigma continues to be a significant concern. Mental health stigma produces harmful attitudes and behaviors towards those struggling with a mental health concern. Stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help and may prevent family, friends, or loved ones from reaching out. Anyone struggling with a mental health concern must be treated with the same respect, compassion, and dignity as those who are struggling with physical health. The Center for Suicide Awareness is in the “business” of saving lives. The focus will continue to be our mission of being dedicated to preventing suicide through proactive education, training, emotional support, collaboration, and intervention.

Meet the Team!

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Barb Bigalke

Founder/Executive Director

Barb Bigalke is a driven, compassionate leader who develops innovative solutions in the areas of mental health, suicide, trauma, and authentic living. Her diverse 20+ year career as a counselor, coach, speaker, and teacher provides a solid foundation of knowledge and experience to connect with people in an impactful way. She has undergrad and master’s degrees in Human Development, Psychology and Mental Health Counseling and 70+ certificates in crisis response — plus more! In all Barb does, she is always focused on bringing hope and healing to people who need it. In 2009, she founded the Center for Suicide Awareness and, in 2014, launched the HOPELINE™ text-based support line. As an expert in understanding human behaviors, she is a powerful, dynamic speaker and coach who reaches people from a place of empathy and non-judgement. Barb continues to seek ways to fulfill her passion which is to help people navigate through trauma so they can fully step into their true, authentic self.

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Lisa Herrmann

Community Outreach Director

Lisa first joined the Center for Suicide Awareness in 2016 as a Board member and in 2020 transitioned to the Community Outreach Director.  She has 13 years’ experience in Global Corporate Legal Compliance and has exceptional organizational abilities with expertise in ethics and compliance, developing and leading corporate training programs for organizations with more than 20,000 employees.  Her drive to “do the right thing” will be an asset to getting our HOPELINE messaging across consistently and accurately.  Outside of the office, Lisa has an enormous love of animals and wherever she is, her loveable constant companion Miss Charlee will be right there with her.

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Aaron Wanserski

Video Game Outreach Director

Aaron Wanserski serves as the Video Game Outreach Director, Podcast Host and presenter of various trainings for the Center for Suicide Awareness.  He served 12 years in Law Enforcement in the Fox Valley/surrounding area as a patrol officer.  Aaron left Law Enforcement to help individuals with their mental health issues, as well as bring awareness to the suicide issues that are prevelent in the gaming community, along with the first responder community.  With his knowledge of speaking to people in crisis, along with the unique ability to connect with the online community, he is bringing the Center for Suicide Awareness to be one of the top resources for all diverse communities.

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Richard Thibert

Director of IT

I started my career in IT when I left college. My main focus was in the healthcare and healthcare related fields. I have continued to keep my training up to date with various courses and certifications.  I joined the Center for Suicide Awareness in 2011 as a technical resource to assist as the Center as their needs have grown and developed. I currently hold the title of Director IT. I have also volunteered time to assist with the many walks, fundraisers, and awareness events that are conducted every year.

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Mike Crum

Director of Resiliency and Policy Development

Mike came to us in 2015 as an intern from UW-Green Bay, where he earned his Master’s degree in Social Work and is currently working on his Doctorate Degree in Social Work. As a Marine Corps veteran, Mike holds a passion for working with the veteran and service member population and continues to bring so many great ideas to The Center. Mike helped us create our Challenge Coins and developed events such as Lip Sync Battle and Bash for the Brave.

Mike has a 17-year-old son, and currently works as a Master Resiliency Trainer for the Army National Guard. His specialty is talking about military trauma, suicide prevention, and understanding military culture. Mike has also brought Resiliency Training to the Center for Suicide Awareness. Mike is leading the charge to get Resiliency in Law Enforcement agencies throughout the State of Wisconsin. If your organization would like training to discuss military trauma suicide in the military, or law enforcement resiliency training please do not hesitate to reach out.

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Reneé Wright

Master Resiliency Trainer

Ranee’ Wright is a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. She has worked in the mental health field for over 17 years. Ranee’ received a Master’s degree in Forensic Nursing from Fitchburg State University prior to pursing her Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Ranee’ has spent her career working in institutional settings and correctional settings. She has experience in crisis situations and helping patients and staff through those situations. It is one of her core beliefs that we need to take care of our front-line staff to ensure we can provide the best care for our patient populations; trauma informed care begins with healing ourselves.