Victor Armstrong, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


By Sue Coyle

Victor Armstrong

Victor Armstrong, MSW, vice president for health equity and engagement at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) embodies the social work mission in everything he does and has done over his more than 30 years in the profession. Being able to do so is one of the many things that drives him.

Currently at AFSP, Armstrong’s role is “to provide clinical and equity expertise across the organization’s programs, communications and clinical work,” he says. His interest in and passion for suicide prevention developed about 10 years ago while working in a North Carolina health system. “I saw people all the time showing up (to the hospital) who were suicidal. We sent people out back into the world after we had dealt with the surface issues but hadn’t focused on what had brought them to the point of suicidality in the first place. The more I saw that, the more it resonated,” he recalls.

Suicide prevention hasn’t always been the focus for Armstrong, however. Nor has social work. In fact, when he was first starting out—deciding on an education and career path for college— Armstrong says, “I didn’t know what a social worker was.”

Armstrong earned his bachelor’s degree in business management and began his career in banking. He quickly realized banking wasn’t for him and moved to a job at the department of social services “just to have something to do.” It was in this position as an aid to families with dependent children that Armstrong found a passion for human services and decided to pursue a master’s degree in social work.

Since earning his degree, Armstrong has held many positions within the profession, including in child protective services and health systems, and as North Carolina’s mental health commissioner, as well as the state’s inaugural chief health equity officer.

“I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of different things,” he says. “You have no idea how many doors social work can open if you open your mind.”

Throughout his career, Armstrong has received many recognitions, including the 2022 NASW-North Carolina Social Worker of the Year award, and the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion award, which he received from Atrium Health after launching a program called “Let’s Talk.”

Outside of work, Armstrong finds balance in both exercise and posting positive messages to social media daily. But, he says, “The most important thing in the world to me is my family—my wife and three sons.”

cover of winter 2024 issue

Social Work Advocates Flipbook

NASW members, sign in to read the Winter 2024 issue as a flipbook