Thursday, 14 February 2013

Suicide survivors

A couple of weeks ago my sister, who manages a hall of residence at a large British university, was faced with one of the hardest times of her working life. Tragically one of the young students living at the hall appears to have taken her own life (I have to write "appears" as the inquest has yet to take place). Another member of staff and one of the student's friends found her, in her room, after she had been reported as missing all day. It is hard to imagine a more harrowing experience for that staff member and the friend. And then there is the impact upon the family, other close friends, and the wider social circle both at university and outside.

It has been described as like "a grenade going off within a family or community".

The university has arranged ongoing counselling sessions for those students closely affected which is obviously good to know. However, it got me thinking... what about other people who lose a loved one to suicide... what if there is no official support system in place... what do they do?

Well, there are a lot of resources and organisations out there which can offer support and advice.

Survivors of bereavement by suicide (SOBS) has a national helpline - 0844 561 6855, and there are local groups all across the UK. You can find out more here. The website also has links to useful books, videos, survivor testimonials, and other relevant sites.

You can link to an NHS website called Coping after a suicide.

Healthtalkonline has a section here, where you can watch interviews with suicide survivors - brothers, sisters, parents, partners and friends.

Many sites are from outside the UK, but nonetheless helpful for being so.

The Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors has a website page here about the common feelings which surface at a time like this. Other people's survival stories can be helpful - showing that not only is survival possible, but there is a journey beyond: "Survivors must mourn, question and rebuild their shattered lives.  For many though, there is an unexpected gift:  a bond among survivors, which pierces through the isolation and the fear."  

"RedRubySlippers" writes of her poignant journey here.

You can find many more resources online - these are just a few key links. Get in touch or leave a comment if you have some ideas that helped you.

Postscript, July 2013: The Samaritans have produced a guide called Help is at hand for family and friends bereaved through suicide and unexplained death. 

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