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New support offered to local families coping with suicide

SIMCOE, AUGUST 26, 2011 – A new monthly support group for people who have lost friends and relatives to suicide is being offered in Dunnville.

The group will be meeting on the first Wednesday of each month, starting September 7, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at the Dunnville Public Library.

People who have lost someone close to them to suicide often experience a prolonged bereavement period, and often live quietly with their emotional burden. Emotional responses such as shock, social isolation, a sense of abandonment and guilt are also common following the suicide of a loved one.

The support group will provide an opportunity for survivors to share their stories and connect with other survivors, and talk openly about suicide with people who really understand.

“Survivors of suicide have to negotiate not only their grief, but also the stigma and judgment that often is attached to suicide,” said Marilyn Antkiw, Public Health Nurse with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit and leader of the group.

A similar support group has been operating in Simcoe for two years, and participants have recognized the benefits of coming together with others experiencing similar feelings.

“Attending this support group provides me strength to know I have a safe place to go to connect with others who understand, and that I do not have to struggle with my grieving process alone,’ noted one member of the Simcoe group.

“Even though I was grieving sorely, I wanted to educate myself and benefit from professionals and others who had been through the same kind of tragedy,” added another survivor who attended the Simcoe support group. “Emotionally, I found there was great comfort in knowing that others were experiencing the same great loss as I was and were continuing to lead full lives.”

In May of this year the Health Unit partnered with Community Addiction and Mental Health Services of Haldiamnd-Norfolk, True Experience Supportive Housing and Work Program, and Dunnville’s Grace United Church to deliver a mental health series. One of the sessions’ topics was suicide awareness and prevention, which started a discussion about the need for a suicide bereavement support group in Dunnville.

There are approximately 14 suicides each year in Haldimand-Norfolk. However, many other suicidal deaths go unreported, or are recorded as single car accidents or accidental drug overdoses.

Suicide often catches friends and family members by surprise. These individuals are then left behind to deal with their feelings of confusion, guilt and anger. The overwhelming stress and grief survivors feel may lead to depression, job loss and marriage breakdowns. Unhealthy coping strategies such as turning to drugs and alcohol, or contemplating suicide themselves, are not common.

“Moving through the grief of a loved one who dies by suicide doesn’t happen overnight, or even completely,” said Jean Montgomery, a member of the Suicide Prevention Network of Haldimand-Norfolk.. “However, there are steps each of us can take to carry on, to continue living, and to find a sense of purpose, joy, and happiness again. Hopefully this support group will help people looking for healing take a step in the right direction.”

For more information about the suicide bereavement support group, call 905-318-6623 ext. 3252.

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Media contact:
Marilyn Antkiw
Public Health Nurse
Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit
Ext. 3252 at either 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623
marilyn.antkiw@hnhu.org