WASHINGTON — D.C. veteran Porsche Williams is determined to spread education on suicide prevention.
Over the last two years, she’s worked with fellow veterans and FBI agents to NFL players and everyone in between through her company Restore Life.
But when COVID hit — that’s when she started working on another passion: baking sweet potato pies. The baking provided an outlet from the intense work of suicide prevention. "These pies, they were therapy for me," Williams shared.
After 16 tries of working to perfect the recipe, she started selling what fans call the best pies in the DMV under the nickname she got in the military. Now, the community knows the treat as Cookie's Sweet Potato Pie, where 100% of the proceeds go into funding her original goal of bringing suicide prevention training to people of all walks of life across the metro area and beyond.
Pie sales help cover the cost of conducting the training sessions and enable those in attendance to potentially help save a life one day.
“I got tired of waiting on grants and funding. We needed the help now,” she explained.
So far, Williams has raised enough to host four classes, free of charge to local participants. She says she has saved 200 lives since she began her intervention efforts.
The veteran and passionate baker is also a survivor. After experiencing trauma throughout her life and post-traumatic stress disorder, she attempted to take her own life in 2017. "I kept seeing my friends from the military complete suicide. And I wanted to be a part of the change that I wanted to see."
Through her experience, she’s gained an intimate understanding of suicide prevention and what skills may help when a person is in crisis — a state more people have found themselves in since the start of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“People need to know how to have that conversation. They need to understand that anything that you say can sway a suicide intervention and put someone further over the edge and I know because of my personal experience,” she explained.
“2020 has been one of the worst years for suicides. The numbers are so high between attempts and completions. It's scary.” Williams said the pandemic has made it all the more urgent that more people learn the skills necessary for suicide prevention.
“I'm going to get out here and I'm going to teach this suicide intervention one way or another because that's the way that we're going to end impact those numbers. That's the way that we're going to bring it down.”
Williams emphasized how necessary it is for everyone to be trained in suicide prevention, rather than simply leaving it to the professionals. “When one is having thoughts of suicide, they tend to reach out to the people who are closest to them, right? Their mom, their dad, their best friends, their cousins,” she explained. “They want to vent to the people that they trust. And so we want to train the people that they trust and everybody on how to have that conversation."
If you or a loved one is currently in immediate crisis, please call the suicide prevention lifeline, available 24 hours a day, at 800-273-8255.