Letter: If you’re reading this, let us help

Editor’s note: This letter to an anonymous suicide loss survivor was submitted to the Daily Journal in hopes of reaching that individual.

Dear Greenwood survivor of suicide loss,

I will admit, today was a first for me – in response to a recent Daily Journal article about the creation of ATLAS, we received your anonymous letter.

I’m thankful that the article reached you, and hopefully made you feel a bit seen. I’m humbled that you chose to share your story with us, but by nature of anonymity, I cannot reach out to you to respond as I wish I could. The “best” outlet I have is this letter to the editor and a (soon to be posted) video on our Facebook page. I’m hopeful you’ll see this, but at a minimum, I’m hopeful that others will read this and share with someone in their life that may benefit from it.

First, and it may not be said enough, but I’m glad you’re still with us. Even though I could not pick you out of a crowd, you’re important and I’m glad you’re still here. The holidays can be so incredibly tough, but you made it through – and I’m proud of you for that.

Second, I’m sorry you had such a tough time getting professional or peer support after your devastating loss. So many of our physical and behavioral health systems are broken and hard to navigate in the best of times – much less after such a traumatic loss and when your world has crashed down around you. If you’re still open to talking to someone, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers a chance to talk to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide through their Healing Conversations program (afsp.org/healing-conversations). These conversations aren’t necessarily for ongoing support, and aren’t with trained clinicians – they’re with others who have walked a similar path to you and lost a loved one. There are also clinicians who have been trained by AFSP to specifically support individuals in the grieving process from losing a loved one to suicide. While I can’t promise any of these clinicians will be better or different than your past experience, they are at least trained to understand and support after a suicide loss (afsp.org/suicide-bereavement-trained-clinicians), which doesn’t necessarily apply to the vast majority of mental health practitioners.

Lastly, while Johnson County doesn’t currently have a support group for individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide, they do exist. Again, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is an excellent resource, and has trained individuals to facilitate these groups around the country. There are several in the central Indiana area, and you can search for one that maybe works in your schedule on their site (afsp.org/find-a-support-group). We are trying to get a support group started in the county, but unfortunately it takes time.

And if all of this is not of interest anymore or still too much to have tossed at you at once – we’d still love to have you for our Survivor Day event the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I don’t have any plans or details for the 2022 version, other than it will exist in some format – either in person if we’re able, or through AFSP’s statewide or national version. When it gets closer, you’ll be able to find events across the globe at afsp.org/international-survivors-of-suicide-loss-day.

Thank you again for your note and story. If you’re seeing this, I hope you continue to take care of yourself because you truly are a survivor. We cannot reach everyone, but I want you to know there are individuals and organizations who are working tirelessly to both prevent suicides and provide support to those who are left in the wake of a death. We won’t give up the vision of having more supports in the county for individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide, so that you have the space and freedom to talk about your loved one, your experience, and most importantly, to realize you’re not alone and that your experience and feelings — across the spectrum — are valid and important.

Kathleen Ratcliff, Executive Director, Upstream Prevention