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SPEAK promotes the prevention of youth suicide and works to dispel the social stigma
surrounding suicide and depression through a campaign of education and awareness
at the community level.

We provide literature, speakers and programs to schools and organizations.



Lisa Hurka Covington is the Founder and Executive Director of SPEAK. Her younger sister, Laura was 28 when she shot herself on July 9, 1991. Ms. Hurka Covington is a public speaker, published writer, and activist fighting for the safety of our young people. She sat on the Public Policy Committee for NAMI Maryland (National Association for Mental Illness) and also on the board of MAHA (Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse), was the community organizer in Maryland for the national organization SPAN (Suicide Prevention Action Network), and is the Maryland spokesperson for suicide prevention. Ms. Hurka Covington has been on radio and television, and has been written up in magazines and newspapers. "Every negative situation has something positive that one day will evolve," she stresses. Her beautiful sister and others who completed suicide will never be forgotten - they were here for a reason!

Lee Tolzman is a mother of 5 who lost her youngest son, John, to suicide when he shot himself April 22, 1985. John was only 12 years old. After spending several years in the support group Seasons where she sometimes worked as a facilitator, she spent 3 years with First Step Youth Services speaking on Suicide Prevention. In 1999 she helped found SPEAK where she has continued speaking at schools, conferences and community organizations on the subject of youth suicide. Lee served as Vice President of SPEAK until she passed away in 2009.

Betty Schmedes is the President of SPEAK. Her younger sister Mary died of a self inflicted gunshot wound on Thanksgiving Day in 1988. Betty has been a nurse for 47 years and is the mother of two grown sons and also has two wonderful grandchildren. Her sister's death led her to reevaluate her career. She has been a Youth Minister at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Pikesville for many years and the coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. Ursula's Church in Parkville for the past 13 years. Betty had also attended Seasons and was involved as a facilitator when she met Lisa and the other women. It was at this time in 1999, that she decided to join them in their efforts to turn their grief around and make a difference with our youth by being their advocates, and developing the SPEAK organization. Betty believes that our loved ones spirits are always guiding our way and still live through all our continuing endeavors to speak for those who suffer in silence.

Marie McLaughlin is one of the original founders of SPEAK and a survivor of her son's suicide death. She serves on the board of SPEAK and holds the office of Secretary for the organization. Marie holds a B.S. in Nursing from Notre Dame of Maryland and a M.S. Health Science from Towson University. She worked as a Psychiatric and Mental Health nurse for more than 25 years and has experience in Health Education. Marie currently works part time as a clinical research nurse. In addition to Speak and work, she fills her life with family, especially 2 beautiful granddaughters and gardening, hiking, traveling, and writing. She is currently working on a book about the aftermath of her son's death. Christopher took his life on January 2, 1992 by hanging himself. He would have been 23 on March 23rd of that year.



SPEAK's New Video

SPEAK 2009 Video

SPEAK on Broadcast Radio

Press Release from Governor Martin O'Malley

Former Governor
Robert Ehrlich

The Maryland Youth
Crisis Hotline

National Suicide
Support Groups

The National Suicide Hotlines

Maryland Suicide Prevention Commission

SPEAK on Facebook

Bev Cobain/Jean Larch 'Dying To Be Free'

Linda Goldman
'Coming Out,
Coming In'

Goldman's Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Sex

Nancy Rappaport
'In Her Wake'

SPEAK is an Educational/Advocacy organization. We do not offer intervention or counseling.
If you are anyone you know is contemplating suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK immediately.

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