Suicide Prevention and Postvention

A Genuine Feeling of Caring Here

Posted in Community, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on October 23rd, 2018 with No Comments

Hundreds Join in Samaritans Second Annual Walk for Hope

“Peg Serley was a driving force in community outreach. She began her work some 40 years ago when NOBODY was talking about suicide. In fact, people shunned it. Peg was out front with all of this,” reflected Walk for Hope Co-Chair Bob Autieri as he addressed the crowds gathered at the Walk for Hope’s opening ceremony.  “In our lifetime, if we’re fortunate, we get to meet outstanding people that we just never forget. In my life I call them beacons of light. Peg Serley is, for me, one of those beacons of light.”  Among those on hand Saturday morning to receive Autieri’s tribute was Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Founder Ms. Serley herself.  Her presence at the second annual Walk for Hope was among the event’s many highlights.

One of the intentions behind the Walk for Hope, created by Samaritans Director Debbie Helms, was to offer the community a space for healing and celebrating lives lost, but also to create a community of comfort and conversation in and around suicide.  As one walker pointed out along the walk’s course, “there’s just a genuine feeling of caring here.”  From extended families and bands of teams to puppies and pals, all were spirited up to show their support for suicide prevention and awareness.  “You know when you get a hug from someone who lost a loved one here, it’s a sincere hug – they know,” shared one participant who had recently lost her niece to suicide.  “They’ve been there.  That’s a person who has walked in your shoes.”

“I learned about the Samaritans when I myself needed help.  And, these people came at the right moment for me,” shared Ms. Serley as she walked back in time.  “The ability to share that over the years has been a blessing to me, and hopefully to many other people.”  Family Services of the Merrimack Valley is forever grateful for Peg Serley’s longtime service and unwavering commitment to shedding light on suicide.  The many blessings she has offered ripple far and wide.  We would also like to thank our Samaritans staff, the Walk for Hope Event Committee, our sponsors, friends in the media, the students at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School (a few of whom are pictured above) and the countless volunteers who helped to contribute to a wonderful morning of healing and community.  You are all beacons of light!

Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available (daily) from 8 AM to 11 PM by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673), or 978-327-6607.  

Additional Resources:

877-870-4673 – Samaritans Statewide Crisis Help Line

1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-508-532-2255 – Call2Talk

To contact a Samaritans staff member, please call 978-327-6671.

My Son Has a Name

Posted in Community, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on October 1st, 2018 with No Comments

Suicide… It’s a Complicated Grief.

Andrea Casey is a member of the amazing team we have here on staff here at Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley, a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley.  A beloved facilitator of the Samaritans ongoing Survivors of Suicide Loss Safe Place meetings, Andrea brings to that role a very unique perspective.  She has walked in the shoes of those who seek refuge in these community gatherings.  In 2008 she lost her beloved some Christopher to suicide.  She wants him to be remembered.  He had a name.  He had dreams, and he also had demons she believes.  In his honor, Andrea channels her grief into action by championing suicide awareness and by comforting other survivors in their heartbreak.  We are grateful for Andrea’s service and caught up with her as she and her colleagues prepare for the Samaritans Second Annual WALK FOR HOPE taking place on October 20.  Information on WALK FOR HOPE volunteer opportunities, participant registration and sponsorship opportunities are available here…


How did you become involved with Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley
?
I became involved with the Samaritans of Merrimack Valley when I lost my son Christopher Lee Manross ten years ago.   At the time, my Mom’s place of employment had a sign posted on the window for a Safe Place meeting for survivors of suicide loss.  

What would you like others to know about Chris?
Chris was my blond-haired, blue-eyed darling of a son.  He was gentle and kind-hearted.  He once stood up to bullying for a friend who shared the same religion.  Chris was very intelligent (sometimes  I think brilliant), and he received an academic scholarship to study Engineering at Clemson University – one of the most elite programs in the country.  I just want him to be remembered – that my son has a name, and he lived to be 18.  He wasn’t selfish.  He must have had demons that only he knew.

Tell us about the Survivor Support Group.  Why are they so essential?
The Survivor Group is essential because (in that setting) we all have lost someone to suicide.  It’s a complicated grief.  Who they (our loved ones) were and how they died is traumatic in its own worst way.  These gatherings are a place to vent your loss and connect with others who share your grief.

Last year you volunteered in our First Annual WALK FOR HOPE.  How was that experience?  Can you speak about the healing aspects of participating in this?
The First Annual Walk for Hope gave me hope.  We need to raise money for this much needed cause.  We have to denounce the stigma around suicide.  We have to take a stand against suicide’s depiction as a “selfish” act.  With both last year’s event and this year’s WALK FOR HOPE, our goal is to spread the word that suicide is truly a sickness, and that there is hope.  I believe that EDUCATION is the key factor.

How will the event differ this year, and what will people be missing if they do not participate in the Walk in some capacity?
With this year’s WALK FOR HOPE, we are on a mission to reach a broader audience.  The community nature of the Walk presents us with a chance to spread the word about the education we offer through the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley.  We need these educational programs to reach the hurting… and the general public as they may know of someone suffering.  The Samaritans also offers both the knowledge and the resources for those that might be contemplating suicide.  I believe if people would just educate themselves and others, we will help save lives!

Thank you for all that you do Andrea….  Is there anything else you want to share on the topic of suicide  as we approach the second annual WALK FOR HOPE?
I would just like to say that if we had known that our son Chris was suicidal and we had accessed the resources and trained staff of the Samaritans, maybe, just maybe, my sweet young son would still be with us today.

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  To learn more about our Second Annual WALK FOR HOPE, please visit…

If you or someone you know is in imminent risk of suicide, call 911 or an ambulance to take them to an emergency room.

Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available (daily) from 8 AM to 11 PM by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673), or 978-327-6607.

Additional Resources:

877-870-4673 – Samaritans Statewide Crisis Help Line

1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-508-532-2255 – Call2Talk

To contact a Samaritans staff member, please call 978-327-6671.

 

The FUNDAMENTAL FACTS About Suicide Prevention

Posted in Suicide Prevention and Postvention on September 10th, 2018 with No Comments

Samaritans of Merrimack Valley Partners with NAMI Cape Ann in Recognizing National Suicide Prevention Month

The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) Cape Ann, is one of 1000 affiliates within the expansive organization.  NAMI Cape Ann, a grassroots, nonprofit organization working on behalf of either those who suffer or those who care for anyone challenged by daily, mental health issues, serves the Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex and Ipswich communities. NAMI Cape Ann provides, at no charge, advocacy from diagnosis to recovery, education, support groups, classes and programs to those…their families and friends dealing with or challenged by mental health issues, living on Cape Ann.  Next month (as part of an ongoing  Suicide Prevention Training partnership) Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley, a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley, will partner with NAMI Cape Ann for The Fundamental Facts About Preventing Suicide.

We are grateful for the important work being done by our friends at NAMI Cape Ann,” shares Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Director Debbie Helms.  We are excited to collaborate for this upcoming program to get the word out to the communities we serve and increase awareness around suicide.

We recently sat down with Malva Crothers who serves as the Vice President of NAMI Cape Anns Board of Directors.  She has had a long history of service in the area of emotional wellness and is thrilled to be working in concert with Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley for this month’s special programming.

Tell us a little about NAMI, and the work that you do in the Cape Ann area?  How did you come to be involved with the organization?
NAMI Cape Ann provides, at no charge, advocacy from diagnosis to recovery, education, support groups, classes and programs to families and friends dealing with or challenged by mental health issues, living on Cape Ann.  I became involved with the organization as I was (personally) looking for a group which supports mental health challenges.  I now serve on their Board of Directors as Vice President and assist NAMI Cape Ann with their Marketing, Public Relations, Membership, Events and Promotions.

The Samaritans of Merrimack Valley is excited to partner with NAMI Cape Ann on September 24, for The Fundamental Facts About Preventing Suicide.  How did the collaboration come to fruition.  Who should attend this program, and why now?
The NAMI Cape Ann and the Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, Suicide Prevention Training partnership came to fruition as we sought out the insights and training expertise of Debbie Helms for our Cape Ann community as we together recognize September, National Suicide Prevention Month.  Joining us for this program will be community leaders, i.e. law and fire enforcement officials, member of the clergy, elected officials, educators, mental health service providers, representatives of Veterans Services, Housing Authority officials and private practitioners.  We expect 25-30 guests to be in attendance.

We live in complex times, with a continuous reel of not so positive news.  The average person’s level of stress is unsustainable.  Can you offer any suggestions for small (daily) practices for others, especially those battling with depression or suicidal thoughts, for combating life’s daily grind?
Random acts of kindness need to be demonstrated not only during Suicide Prevention Week, but on a daily basis.

The Fundamental Facts About Preventing Suicide is an invitation only event.  To learn more about the public programs and services of NAMI Cape Ann please visit their website.  Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  Family Services’ Samaritans is a member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention, the Northeast Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention, and the American Association of Suicidology.

Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available (daily) from 8 AM to 11 PM by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673), or 978-327-6607.  Please join us on October 20 for our second annual Walk for Hope.  Register here…

 

Additional Resources:

877-870-4673 – Samaritans Statewide Crisis Help Line

1-800-273-8255 – National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-508-532-2255 – Call2Talk

To contact a Samaritans staff member, please call 978-327-6671.

 

A Friend in YOU

Posted in Suicide Prevention and Postvention on September 5th, 2018 with No Comments

Make a Difference TODAY

A friend recently shared a story of a gesture she will never forget.  It took place a few years back while she was standing in line at a grocery store – on a tough day that found her feeling overwhelmed and especially blue.  Out of that blue, she looked up and noticed a woman, a stranger, holding a beautiful plant.  She turned to my friend, handed her the plant, saying, “I bought this for someone, and I think it was you.”  That simple act of compassion – of recognizing that we ALL have something with which we are dealing, proved to be a game changer for my friend.  In an instant, her spirits were elevated.  Someone noticed her, saw her pain and offered a simple human touch.

Can you imagine a world where everyone modeled the kindness of this stranger?  Where everyone looked up from their multi-tasking, and their self study to lift the spirits of another?  How about just for a day?  WE can, and we invite you to join us on Monday, September 10 as we recognize World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD).  Organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the purpose of World Suicide Prevention Day is to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented.  In that spirit we’re launching the Make a Difference TODAY Challenge calling on everyone in our Family Services of the Merrimack Valley Community and beyond to commit to one small act of humanity that might benefit someone outside of your social circles – be it the mail carrier, the clerk at the grocery store, an elderly neighbor, or a co-worker in a department you rarely frequent.  You never know the ripple that action may have.

Suicide and non-fatal suicidal behavior are major public health problems across the world. Each year, more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide, leaving behind their friends and family members to navigate the tragedy of loss. In many cases, friends and families affected by a suicide loss (often called “suicide loss survivors”) are left in the dark. Too often the feelings of shame and stigma prevent them from talking openly.  But, our friends at IASP remind us that suicide is preventable. A simple gesture of kindness or extension of attention can often go a long way in easing the despair of someone experiencing suicidal thoughts.

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other,” queried the author George Eliot long ago.  It’s a timeless inquiry well worth worth revisiting throughout September (National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month).  On September 10, together let’s make a wave by looking up from our phones and smiling at someone passing by along the street, buying a coffee for a co-worker, writing a letter or card to a friend you’ve lost touch with or buying a plant for that stranger in the grocery store. Can we for one day make life less difficult for another?  Get creative.  Taking our challenge will likely lift your spirits as much as it will the benefactor.  We would love to share your experiences as you take our Make a Difference TODAY Challenge.  So, please visit our Facebook page on September 10th and throughout the month and let us know the story behind your gesture.  We want to know what, who, where, and most importantly…  how it was received.

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available (daily) from 8 AM to 11 PM by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673), or 978-327-6607.

If you or someone you know is in imminent risk of suicide, call 911 or an ambulance to take them to an emergency room.

Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.  The National Alliance of Mental Illness offers a wealth of information regarding treatment services to those affected by suicide, and to connect individuals with suicidal ideation.  Please visit their website at www.NAMI.org.  “Suicide does not discriminate,” notes Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Director Debbie Helms.  “You never know what someone is going through.  One small gesture of kindness can change that person’s outlook on life.”  Let us join together and use National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic, to reach out to those affected by suicide and to connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services.  Now is THE moment to take the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley Make a Difference TODAY Challenge.  And, please join us on October 20 for our second annual Walk for Hope.  Register here…

 

“We Learn From It.”

Posted in Community, Suicide Prevention and Postvention on June 21st, 2018 with No Comments

Local Business Owner Rallies Team in Honor of One of Their Own

Gregory Cunningham launched Ground Care Landscaping in 2004.  A lifelong resident of the Merrimack Valley, the business fused together his business skills along with his passion for the outdoors.  He has, through the years, built both Ground Care Landscaping and its work force around the premise of, “if it happens, we learn from it.  whatever ‘it’ is.”  That edict was put to the test over the past year as his staff grappled with the loss of one of their own to suicide.  During this time, Cunningham has been instrumental in guiding his team through this tremendous loss and in helping Ground Care to uncover the teachable moment.  Among his many gestures, Cunningham has built a golf tournament in salute of the life of their revered team member and friend, Ryan.  The community event, which takes place on Saturday, June 23 will also serve a dual purpose in that its proceeds will help to raise funds for the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley (a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley) and also for local programs and services which support our veterans.  We recently caught up with Greg as his staff puts the finishing touches on the tournament… and keeps their fingers crossed for sunshine on Saturday

On behalf of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley and the Samaritans of the Merrimack Valley, thank you so much for coordinating this event to benefit our programs and services.  Why the Samaritans?  Had you any previous association with us?

Last year the Ground Care team lost one of our own to suicide.  It was a heavy hit for all of us.  We had never been involved with the cause of suicide until it hit home.  As the owner, mobilizing to raise funds in honor of Ryan was an opportunity for me to show the rest of our team how much each of them truly means to me.

If you are comfortable, do you care to share something about the individual in whose honor Ground Care has developed this event? 

Ryan was a great part of our team.  Nobody controlled our emotions like he did.  His presence had such an impact around here.  When we lost him, it left a huge void here within the company.  Ryan was an avid outdoorsman and hiker… and he loved people more than anyone on the planet.

How is it that Ground Care came to choose a golf tournament as opposed to some other form of a charitable event? 

We just wanted to to try something new.  This golf tournament is a chance for us to celebrate the success of our company and to give back in honor of Ryan.  Losing him humbled all of us.  Yet, with this tournament, here he is again bringing the team together.  We hope to make it an annual event.

Is there anything else you wish to share about suicide and your personal experience losing someone?

You never really understand how big an issue is to someone else.  On the day that Ryan died, he and I had worked alongside one another for that entire day.  I knew that he had some issues going on, and during that day I took the time out where I could to listen and be a friend.  Still, I had no idea how heavy these issues were weighing on him.  Everyone on our team felt responsible at the time of this tragedy.  I’m still left with the question of, “could i have done more?”  I just have to remind myself and the entire Ground Care staff that we were all a good friend to Ryan, and sometimes (unfortunately) there is only so much you can do.

 If folks would like to pitch in with the event, how might they still do so?

The 18 hole tournament begins at noon on Saturday.  We’re looking forward to a wonderful afternoon at the Bradford Country Club in Haverhill.  Beyond helping us to root for sunshine on Saturday, we still have some opportunities for businesses to sponsor holes.  In addition, we would welcome any in-kind donations for raffle items.  Please contact us at 978-688-9800 if you would like to pitch in some capacity.  For any questions or additional information, please feel free to also email us at: [email protected]

Family Services’ Samaritans of Merrimack Valley strives to reduce the incidence of suicide in the Merrimack Valley and throughout Massachusetts by providing “befriending” to individuals who are lonely, depressed and contemplating suicide or self-injury. Suicide prevention is one of the primary goals of the Samaritans, although services also include postvention services, trainings and seminars, and support groups.  If you or someone you know is in imminent risk of suicide, call 911 or an ambulance to take them to an emergency room.  Family Services’ Samaritans provides a free and confidential crisis help line to those who are lonely, despairing, suicidal or need someone to listen. This service is provided by trained volunteers who provide unconditional and non-judgmental “TLC” – talking, listening and caring. This service is available 24/7 by calling our Crisis Help Line at 866-912-HOPE (4673).