Tag Archive | suicide postvention

Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide – L.O.S.S. first responder team

We continue to make progress with the implementation of a LOSS first responder team here in Franklin County.  The LOSS team goes to the scene of a suicide where there are survivors.  A survivor can be a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, etc.  Anyone that’s been impacted.  The goal is for those of us that have lost someone to suicide to connect – even if only for a moment – and leave information and resources for support.  Then to follow up as appropriate. My blog from January 27, 2014 shares more info about this.

Today we met with the 8 investigators at the coroner’s office. It went well. They had some challenging questions about how the LOSS team would function which was good. They were engaged and honest – can’t beat that! And they were themselves… meaning they work all day every day with the deceased so they talk about horribly graphic things regularly – even casually. It’s what they live and breathe so who can blame them? One person shared a gruesome situation in detail. They were clearly making a point to me. I was up for the challenge. This investigator then closed their gruesome example by asking… “I medicate and drink in order to handle what I do – how will a survivor of a suicide loss handle it?” I reminded them the LOSS team will not see the body. “Yes, but you are there to help the people who found the body. How will you handle it?” I felt defensive. I sure hope I didn’t come across as defensive. I answered this investigator honestly by sharing personally what I was capable of – and what I may not be capable of. We left the meeting with the team’s support and with three of the investigators offering to be part of the planning/creation of the team & how it’ll function. We had only asked for one volunteer 🙂 Good stuff.

When I got home Robbie and I talked about how it went and how I was doing. I told him I got a nice big dose of reality today. If I’m going to lead these efforts it means working with folks from the coroner’s office and with law enforcement. People that live and breathe this and therefore talk about it regularly. Am I up for this? Am I pushing myself to do this when I really don’t want to (“I have to” vs. “I get to”)?

I have a fear… a fear that I will function through it. I’ll stuff it then explode but the explosion won’t come until after the LOSS team launches. Robbie reminded me that’s not been the case so far. I am talking to people about how I’m feeling, I’m doing fun things too, I imperfectly depend on God’s strength, and I’m not spending a ton of hours working on this project all at once – I’m pacing myself.

I don’t have to do this. I want to do it. I know that’s hard for most people to understand. I wouldn’t be able to understand either had I not walked the last 1 year, 7 months, 1 week, 3 days and 9 hours in these heavy, clumsy grief shoes.

What I’ve been doing in the Suicide Prevention space…

I’ve learned more about my pace and how to gauge my ability to enter the Suicide Prevention Nonprofit space. 

I didn’t touch it – no research, no questions, no nothing until June, 2013.  That was 10 months after Drey had died.  And I had to take it slow.  I learned that I needed to take it slow the hard way.  I guess that’s the best lesson.  I hesitate in sharing what I’ve learned and what I’ve engaged in because the majority of people that read this won’t care – at least not much.  But then again… I started this blog for me.  As a big part of my healing.  So if I’m ready and wanting to summarize what’s taken place to date then I guess I oughta.

I’ve connected with people at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  I’ve met them, learned more about how the organization functions and coordinated a team walk last October.  We had 40 people attend and raise over $3,500.  For the record… I would’ve been even happier if we had 100 people and had only raised $1,000.  The love I feel by having others come out and remember Drey means the world to me.   Erase the stigma… TALK about him and about suicide and depression.  Don’t sweep it under the rug.

I’ve joined the field advocacy team for AFSP, too.  What’s that mean?  It means a handful of staff of AFSP keep me and other volunteers updated on what legislation – local and federal – is being considered, passed, etc that relates to suicide prevention/mental health. They also provide suggested language for writing local and federal officials. And of course I add my own $.02. I don’t know if it’s making a difference or not. I hope so.

I spoke at the Delaware/Morrow County Suicide Prevention walk and at their Annual Meeting. I got to share about Drey. I love talking about him. I showed everyone at the Annual Meeting one of his senior pictures, too. I’m sure that wasn’t necessarily part of the agenda but who cares. He’s not a suicide statistic. He’s my baby, my boy. Drey. I’m grateful for the people I met through doing that – one gentleman in particular has been really helpful in understanding the “players” in this space and helping me to navigate it.

I met with one of our State Representatives and shared my story and Drey’s story with her. My main purpose for my meeting with her is not one I’ve shared with many people… in large part because I haven’t actioned the outcome and I’m a bit ashamed? Embarrassed? Not sure what word to use. Drey had been taking acne medication at the time of his death. And one of the side effects of the medication was suicidal thoughts/ideation. He was only issued one month’s worth at a time and would have to go in for blood work before he’d get another 30-day supply. So I’m comfortable the doctor was cautious. And I have no way of knowing if this contributed to his suicide. I do believe it’s a safe bet it sure as hell didn’t help matters though. So… I met with this State Rep to ask about getting a law passed around how doctors communicate what depression and suicidal behavior and thoughts might look like before and during administering the meds. The first time Drey was on this medication he was a minor so I was there with him. The doc asked, “are you feeling depressed” and some basic questions. That wasn’t enough in my opinion. How about asking, “Does depression or anxiety run in your family? If so, this could be an indicator of increased susceptibility to suicidal thoughts on this medication.” And how about talking about what happens if alcohol or other drugs are in the mix along with the meds? We could’ve been more informed. So… the State Rep shared a piece of legislation she thought would be a good fit to add my request as an addendum. She gave me the bill (all 50+ pages of it) and the name of the Rep that was trying to get it passed. The bill still sits on my night stand – next to Drey’s ashes and one of my fave pictures of us. Pacing myself… it’s important. I just haven’t been ready to engage that doctor or that issue. Not yet.

What I’ve really pursued more than anything else is “Postvention.” Postvention is helping those who have lost someone to suicide. I’ve learned they (we!) are one of the larger “at risk” groups for suicide. I’ve learned that both statistically and from my personal experience. I am now part of the Franklin County Suicide Prevention Coalition. And in that role I am working on a strategic plan around Postvention. What services do we currently have? Are we communicating what our resources are as effectively as possible? What programs/resources do we want to implement? One program we’d like to implement is a LOSS (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors) team. This is a first responder team of 2-3 people that go to the scene of a suicide. One of the three people that goes is an actual survivor of a suicide. The single purpose for being there is to point the new survivors to resources that they can reach out to WHEN THEY ARE READY. After being trained and learning more about the LOSS teams (they are in other states and a few are here in Ohio – but not in Columbus) I’ve come to understand when a survivor can meet someone who just lost a loved one and can make even a few second connection and let them know they, too, lost a son to suicide (in my case) that the doors often open to follow up conversations and eventual healing. What an important role to play. God has blessed me to lead these efforts which includes meeting with law enforcement officials, the Coroner, mental health agencies and so on. Our goal is to launch in the Fall of 2014. Will I be able to be part of a first responder LOSS team? I don’t know. One step at a time. For now I plan, organize, champion, and communicate.

A big piece of my healing has been engaging in this Suicide Prevention space. Will that be the case a year from now? I don’t know. I don’t need to know. I’m just learning to be grateful for the strength God’s given me for today.