People from all walks of life, all around the world will take time this weekend to remember those impacted by suicide.
Locally, a group will come together to heal Saturday at Sentara Regional Medical Center.
“What this does is it takes people out of isolation,” said Glinda O’Neill, manager of the Sentara Outpatient Behavior Health Services. “People will gather for a common cause and talk about their issues and concerns. When we come together as a group to focus on a topic, it’s an opportunity to heal.”
On Saturday people from around the world will commemorate International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. The day was created to recognize those affected by suicide and bring them together for healing and support, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
It started in 1999 when Sen. Harry Reid, whose father died of suicide, introduced a resolution to the U.S. Senate to create International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. It was decided upon the resolution’s approval that the day would always be the Saturday before American Thanksgiving because the holidays are often difficult times for suicide loss.
O’Neill said the day helps bring the focus back to suicide and reminds people that it is preventable and survivable for those left behind.
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And one of the best ways to do that, she said, is simply by listening and paying attention.
O’Neill has worked in mental health for more than two decades and she said one thing she’s noticed people don’t realize about those impacted by suicide is that they don’t know if people will want to hear what they have to say.
“It’s allowing that person not to feel alone,” she said. “Being there to be a support, it’s important to be sympathetic and non-judgmental. Those are the kinds of things that will allow a person to isolate even more and not share feelings because they’re being minimized.”
As the stigma around mental health fades more and more over the years, O’Neill said greater resources and support are becoming available to those who need it. While International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is just one day, Sentara participates and hosts activities throughout the year to bring more recognition and support to those impacted by suicide.
“People are developing a level of comfort talking about it,” she said. “They’re not as isolated because there are resources to work through these thoughts and emotions and they can out to a population that will accept them and help them heal themselves.”
O’Neill said there are a variety of options for support available throughout the Peninsula because people can be impacted differently.
But having a day specifically designated to those who are left behind after a loved one’s suicide is something that can connect people of all backgrounds and experiences.
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“I think by having a national day, it brings it to the attention of the community,” she said. “People understand this is extremely important and many people are impacted by suicide and mental illness. This helps people feel they are not dealing with it alone.”
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention supports hundreds of events around the world that help suicide survivors find connection and hope, the organization’s website said. Each one is unique but will all feature a documentary from AFSP that shares a message of “growth, resilience and connection.”
Sentara’s event will be at the Sentara Regional Medical Center from 10 a.m. to noon. It will give visitors the opportunity to share their stories with others or simply listen silently, according to the event page.
The event is free but those interested should register online in advance.