In Washington State, 1,131 residents died by suicide, making it the eighth leading cause of death overall in 2016. A significantly broader population is impacted by these deaths. It is estimated that for every suicide, there are at least 6 immediate survivors, and yet many suicidologists believe this to be a very conservative number.
Survivors of suicide loss are a vulnerable population. They are at elevated risk for mental illness, substance use disorders, and other negative outcomes. Family members grieving a suicide loss are themselves subsequently at higher risk for suicide.
Anyone who has experienced a suicide loss needs time to heal. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding suicide can make others feel uncomfortable, leaving survivors feeling isolated.
For this reason, many survivors don’t feel comfortable or supported in a traditional grief support group, and yet very few suicide-specific grief support resources exist across Washington State.
To address this gap in services, Forefront Suicide Prevention developed the Forefront Cares program to provide outreach and support to individuals who are newly bereaved after a suicide. In December, Forefront Cares became the recipient of a $20,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente to help us make an impact in our community.
“This is the first time we have received a grant from Kaiser Permanente and we are so pleased,” said Jennifer Barron, Director of the Forefront Cares program. “The grant allows us to come alongside ne
wly bereaved individuals and let them know that they are not alone.” To date, over 350 loss survivors has been supported by the Forefront Cares program, spanning 27 states across the U.S.
Forefront Cares brings specialized suicide bereavement outreach and mentoring services to individuals and families surviving the suicide of a loved one. The two-part program consists of care packages and personalized phone outreach for survivors from a trained grief companion. Survivors are offered the opportunity to be paired with a grief companion who provides short term phone support (3-6 phone calls). Forefront also offers training to the public in how to respond compassionately and effectively to families in the aftermath of a suicide.
“I believe [this program] helps many newly bereaved people to realize they are not allow alone in their grief journey,” Barron said. “They can reach out and talk to others who have been through a like grief experiences. There is a strength in knowing you are not allow and that others have survived this tragic experience.”
Through this partnership, Forefront and Kaiser Permanente can achieve community benefits which include a reduced sense of isolation and an enhanced awareness of resources and coping skills. When you talk about community members it sounds like it is the community in general and I am not sure they feel a sense of empowerment? Where is this coming from—what does empowered for what? Not only will community members interact with sur but also feel a heightened sense of empowerment and helpfulness.
“Kaiser Permanente understands that postvention is prevention,” Barron said. “Forefront is grateful to have them as a partner in this life saving work.”
Story by Praphanit Doowa.