How We Engaged Our Community in Suicide Prevention Through Fundraising

Srinivas Panja
Srinivas Panja

Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide.

Life for us turned upside down on Feb. 12, 2022. Our dear son Sanjeev Panja lost his life to suicide at the very tender age of 20. Sanjeev was caring, loving, funny, goofy, and an extremely motivated kid — always laughing and making others laugh. The pain and grief we are going through are unimaginable, and no parent should have to go through what we are going through. If it can happen to our family, it can happen to any other family. That was when we decided that we had to turn our pain into purpose, and found Active Minds, who helped us engage our community thoughtfully in suicide prevention through fundraising. 

Sanjeev will forever be remembered for his radiant smile, infectious laughter, and unique sense of humor. To us and the world, he was a bundle of endless energy, extremely motivated, and full of life. To him, his world was his family and friends. He seemed to have the perfect balance in life. He always kept up with his studies, loved sports, and enjoyed having lots of fun with his friends.

We did not see any signs in Sanjeev — we had always openly communicated with Sanjeev on all aspects of life, but it never occurred to us to ask him about his mental wellness. It never dawned on us to start a conversation with him about mental health.

Throughout the pain of grieving Sanjeev, we quickly realized that if this tragedy can happen to our family, it can happen to any other family. This realization is when we decided that we had to turn our pain into purpose.

 In our quest to find purpose, we stumbled across Active Minds. The work of Active Minds resonated with what we had in mind and heart. It did not take us much time to decide that we wanted to work with Active Minds to change the conversation around mental health, especially among teens and young adults. And so we conducted a 5K run in partnership with Active Minds on the eve of Sanjeev’s 21st birthday (Nov. 26, 2022).

The run was a resounding success, and we raised about $32,000 for Active Minds. The team at Active Minds, specifically Active Minds’ Senior Development Associate of Community Fundraising, Sam Pireneo, worked tirelessly with us to make the run a success.

The event helped us spread our story and start the conversation about mental health in our community, more specifically, the South Asian community. We hope to keep Sanjeev’s legacy alive for generations to come and continue our vision of changing the conversation around mental health and preventing suicide in teens and young adults. If you’d like to learn about how you can partner with Active Minds to engage your community in suicide prevention efforts through fundraising, please visit their website. 

If someone you know is struggling, please visit our website for information on how to offer help. If you or someone you know needs immediate support, please refer here for crisis resources or dial 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline. Please be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and remember, you are never alone.