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Event offers comfort for survivors of suicide loss

Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands to screen documentary, host discussion in Bourne

By Cynthia McCormick

cmccormick@capecodonline.com

BOURNE — The Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands will host a documentary screening, discussion and lunch Saturday at Jonathan Bourne Public Library in conjunction with International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

So far, 16 people have registered for the free event, which is scheduled to run from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Walk-ins are welcome, said Stephanie Kelly, executive director of the Cape and Islands Samaritans.

The event is modeled on a program put on annually by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Kelly said.

The Samaritans started marking International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day in partnership with the Cape and Islands Suicide Prevention Coalition about four years ago and has been the lead partner for the past two years, Kelly said.

The goal is to get people who have lost loved ones to suicide to come together to share their grief, but also smile as they reminisce about joyful times and funny moments, Kelly said.

“They can grieve with people who understand that grief,” she said. “They don’t have to pretend they’re OK when they’re not. People need to talk about their person.”

The event will include the showing of a documentary “Pathways to Healing and Hope After Suicide,” Kelly said.

Kelly called the documentary 'a great opportunity to see hope in the future,” especially for the newly grieving.

The event also is aimed at preventing suicide, since those who have lost a loved one to suicide are statistically at higher risk of dying by suicide, Kelly said.

“It’s probably one of the hardest griefs to deal with,” said Jacqueline Lane, executive director of NAMI Cape and the Islands.

Lane has clients who have lost family members, mainly adult children, to suicide. Survivors often ask themselves if they've done everything they could to prevent it, she said.

“There’s a whole other layer of mental gymnastics that goes on here,” Lane said.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day rose out of a 1999 resolution in the U.S. Senate introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, who lost his father to suicide.

The day, also known as Survivor Day, falls on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to recognize how holidays are often a difficult time for people who have lost loved ones to suicide. Last year, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there were 370 events held in 19 countries.

The sense of fellowship that is created when survivors of suicide loss come together is remarkable, said Kelly, who urged people to come to Saturday’s event.

“They’ll be glad they did it,” she said.

People are encouraged to register in advance at afsp.org/ survivor_day/barnstable-countymassachusetts, but registration is not required.

People who are having thoughts of self-harm can call the anonymous Samaritans on Cape Cod hotlines at 508-548-8900 and 800893-9900, or the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Follow Cynthia McCormick on Twitter: @Cmccormickcct.

“They can grieve with people who understand that grief. They don’t have to pretend they’re OK when they’re not. People need to talk about their person.”

Stephanie Kelly, executive director of the Cape and Islands Samaritans

The Samaritans on Cape Cod and the Islands is hosting a documentary screening and discussion Saturday at the Jonathan Bourne Public Library. The event is being held on International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. [MERRILY CASSIDY/CAPE COD TIMES FILE]

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