Article Contributed by
Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene
International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope. A local Survivor Day event will be held in Jamestown on Saturday, November 19 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Jones Memorial Health Center at 51 Glasgow Ave.
“After cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death,” said Sarah Clark, Western New York Area Director of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention (AFSP). “Caring for those left behind in the aftermath of a suicide is an essential part of suicide prevention because suicide loss survivors who are left to grieve alone are at greater risk of suicide themselves.”
Survivor Day was created by an act of Congress in 1999 and since then has been sponsored and supported by the AFSP. All Survivor Day gatherings will include a screening of “Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life after Loss,” a new AFSP-produced Survivor Day documentary that traces the grief and healing journey that follows a suicide loss over time. Additional programming, which is specific to each event, may include presentations by loss survivors and mental health professionals, as well as small group discussions.
“I lost my father to suicide 28 years ago when I was a teenager,” said Heidi Boser, survivor of suicide loss. “Until recently, I was ashamed to share how my father died because of the stigma, but I am finding healing in sharing my story more openly. I’ve learned that many others have encountered their own loss to suicide and there is often an immediate connection and even a sense of relief when this experience is shared. My desire is to help stomp out the stigma associated with suicide. Survivor Day will provide an opportunity to share similar experiences in a safe and stigma-free environment.”
Patricia Brinkman, Director of the Chautauqua County Department of Mental Hygiene is a supporter of this event, stating, “Survivor Day is a way to reinforce that Chautauqua County is a community who cares. Each person can be an inspiration to another, from the sharing of loss to the celebration of life. I hope that the community will show their support by attending the local event in person or by viewing the international event online at www.survivorday.org.”
For many loss survivors, attending a Survivor Day event is an opportunity to discover that they are not alone in their experience of losing someone they know and love to suicide. For those who are unable to attend a Survivor Day event in person, AFSP hosts a Survivor Day program online. The 90-minute online program will include a film screening of “Life Journeys”; a post-screening discussion on coping with a suicide loss; and a Q&A with online viewers. If unable to join the live online event, the recorded program will be available on the website afterwards. More information about the online International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event can be found at www.survivorday.org.
An important local partner for this year’s local International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event is WCA Hospital. WCA is hosting the event and mental health clinicians will be attending to provide support to those who attend.
“We are glad to be a part of such an important project in bringing awareness of this affliction that affects not only those who are suffering from such distress that they take their own lives, but that profoundly impacts all of their loved ones they leave behind,” said Dr. Tara Huston, WCA Outpatient Mental Health Program Manager.
The local International Survivor Day event has been supported by a local group dedicated to suicide prevention called the Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
“The Community Alliance for Suicide Prevention is a group of dedicated professionals and community members that have come together to recognize the call to action for suicide prevention work in Chautauqua County,” said Victoria Patti, Coordinator of the Alliance. “It is so important that we talk about these concerns and don’t brush them aside and hope they go away. We need to create a community culture in which we feel comfortable in talking about mental health openly and honestly in order to receive the support and resources necessary to work towards wellness. We hope that this partnership with the AFSP and WCA serves as a way to reach those we might not have had the opportunity in the past; including others that believe in the cause and would like to contribute to a suicide safer community.”
To learn more about International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, visit www.survivorday.org. For additional information about the local Survivor Day event or The Alliance, contact Victoria Patti at (716) 753-4519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.