Supporting Suicide Survivors: Get Educated, Get Involved
I recently read a moving blog post from a Julia Anne Waterfield raising awareness about the dangers of postpartum depression, following the death of her friend, Allison, by suicide. Depression is a complicated, multifaceted disease from which millions suffer in silence. It comes in many shapes and sizes, but when it is severe, it can be deadly. Suicide like grief is something most people do not want to talk about or acknowledge. Yet it is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. among adults and the 2nd leading cause of death among teens after automobile accidents.
Here are some facts about suicide that you may not know from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Armed Forces Mission, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Each year, nearly 43,000 American die by suicide; that is, nearly 13 people per 100,000 individuals
For every person who completes suicide, 25 people make the attempt.
On average, there are 117 suicides each day. Men are four (4) times more at risk than women, which accounts for 78% of all suicides, yet woman are three (3) times more likely to make an attempt and are more likely to have suicidal thoughts. Military veterans account for 20 of those 117 suicides each day.
Among students, grades 9-12, nearly 20% seriously considered suicide at some point during the previous year, almost 14% created a plan, and 8% made one or more attempts. More than 5,000 teems make a suicide attempt each day.
The most at risk age group are adults ages 18 – 25, followed by adults ages 26 – 49.
Sadly, many times one suicide can lead to another, as families and friends struggle with an unimaginable loss. To this end, Dr. Frank Campbell created the LOSS Team concept. LOSS stands for Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors. The primary goal of this program is prevention; that is, to reduce the time between a loss event and survivors seeking help to rebuild their foundation of resilience. The Armed Forces Mission recently started a LOSS Team chapter in Fayette County, Georgia.
According to Dr. Michelle Lin-Gust, when someone loses a loved one or a friend to suicide, their grief may be particularly confusing. Their emotions may include feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, abandonment, loneliness and even relief. There are no rights or wrongs to these feelings; they just are. Our culture, however, is not supportive of those who are grieving, leading to feelings of isolation. These feelings may be even more intense among those who have lost someone to suicide as suicide itself carries severe social stigma.
What can we do? First, we can be aware that death by suicide is a lot more common than we think and that even the most cheerful person, as in the case of Allison, may be suffering in silence. Do not be afraid to ask, “Are you considering suicide?” Do not be afraid to say the word, suicide. If the person you asked is having suicidal thoughts, ask if he/she has a plan in mind. Having a plan means that person is in immediate danger. Help the person to get someplace safe and in touch with family members, close friends and health care professionals who are trained to intervene. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
We also can reach out to those who are grieving and let them know they are not alone. We can support them when they are not able to support themselves by listening with our hearts and by not offering advice, judgments or platitudes. Although we cannot possibly know what they are going through, we can help survivors of suicide reconnect with their support network and their community; to do something creative, productive and fun each day; and to take care of themselves physically, spiritually and psychologically. We also can help them join a suicide survivors support group and/or talk with a health care professional or a pastoral counselor. Certified Grief Recovery Specialists also can help survivors learn about grief and how to take specific action steps that will help them move on from their pain.
The Grief Recovery Method® is a transformative program that provides a safe, confidential opportunity to gain a better understanding of grief and the myths and misinformation our society perpetuates about grief and the grieving process. It also teaches specific action steps to say goodbye to the pain and heartache caused by loss. By doing so, you will be able to move on and be happy once again. The Grief Recovery Method® is not therapy, but an educational program. It is available in an eight-week grief support group or a seven-week one-on-one format.
Please call me at 404-771-9335. I can help.
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