Caring for Survivors

When a loved one dies by suicide, the ones left behind, the survivors, are dealing with a loss that’s often considered traumatic.  The loss can come with stigma, real or perceived.  The grieving person or family can feel isolated from people they considered their support.  This all can result in survivors being stuck in their grief for years, missing out on support that can help them heal from the loss.

How can we extend care to survivors?

Dispel the myths and stigma that can come with the topic of suicide. Plan an activity for survivors on International Suicide Survivor Day, which is the third Saturday in November. Join a local suicide prevention coalition. Host an event that includes a panel of suicide survivors to share their story.  Hold a workshop on suicide prevention in the community. Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) is an example of a suicide prevention workshop.  Have materials available that give accurate information about suicide prevention and how to show support to those grieving from a suicide-related loss.

Convey the message that you are approachable on this topic. Be there for people when they need to talk. Place messages in your church or worksite newsletter sharing compassionate messages. Encourage people to talk to someone and get connected to the help they need.  Post local resources on a bulletin board, such as details about a suicide survivor support group and the suicide prevention crisis line.   Make sure you know the local resources. Have brochures available in your office and in bathroom brochure racks. Visit this link for more information on the suicide prevention crisis line: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or 800-273-8255

Reach out to survivors and connect them to resources.  Send cards and make calls to them on days that could be more painful, such as the anniversary of the death and the loved one’s birthday.  Invite them to coffee and give them time to talk.  Listen without judgement.  Offer to connect them to counseling resources.  Be aware of lower-cost options, if needed.  Encourage their participation in a support group.  Connect them to other survivors.  Share the Four Corners LOSS Team number to get added support :  402-710-2161.

Survivors can be at higher risk for dying by suicide.  Learn the signs and what to do, including local resources for referral.  Be willing to be there for them and know how to connect them to resources.  If you sense they are struggling, share your concern and take time to listen.  If need be, stay with them until they get the help they need. Know the suicide prevention crisis lines and put the number in your cell phone contact list. This action will make it easier to share the number with others or to make the call when you need guidance for someone you’re helping.  Go to this link for Nebraska resources on suicide prevention:  http://www.suicideprevention.nebraska.edu/

Keep educating yourself on suicide prevention and on supporting suicide survivors.  Stay current on available resources. Share the message of hope with those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide and with survivors who are struggling in their grief.

For local resources or a talk on this topic, contact Four Corners Health Department at 877-337-3573 or 402-362-2621. Visit the website for support group options and other resources at www.fourcorners.ne.gov   Send email to info@fourcorners.ne.gov    We each can make a difference.