Parkland hosts second suicide Survivor Day event
As part of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day gatherings which took place around the world, Parkland hosted its own event promoting comfort for those who have dealt with the loss of a loved one by suicide and providing an outlet for them to discuss the sensitive issue.
It was the 19th International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a program sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The event was created to celebrate survivors of suicide loss and give them a safe space to share their stories and support one another.
The program included a showing of the film “Life Journeys: Reclaiming Life after Loss,” followed by a panel discussion with suicide and mental health professionals, and ended with a group discussion amongst survivors to share stories.
The film revolved around a couple families sharing their experiences with family members that have cut their own lives short and their journeys in reacclimating themselves to their lives while dealing with the psychological damage wrought by the loss.
The 30-minute film was posted on the AFSP’s website the day after the event and remains up for anyone interested. There are no website accounts or the like required to view it.
The panel following the film was made up of Deserai Miller, a survivor of suicide loss; Joe Omo-Osagie, a Parkland counselor and also a loss survivor; and Peter Dyck, who is heavily involved in helping survivors.
Miller shared her experience losing a close person in her life and “finding [her] norm.”“My life had been my life for 23 years. I knew what that was like; I knew what my norm was. Then, after she died, my life had changed. I had spoken with her everyday on the phone; she was really a close person in my life and, for her not to be there, I had to figure out what was my new normal,” Miller said.
“I think it’s more of a journey, than, like, ‘this happened and now I’m healed,’” she said. “I’ve hit acceptance, and now it’s about how can I make meaning as opposed to just focusing on her suicide.”
The point the event was trying to achieve was that losing someone to suicide isn’t something wrong or strange, and that it is an unfortunately-common dilemma. Panelists and participants had shared their own experiences as a step in their own personal “journeys.”Linda Colton, one of the coordinators of the event, described that the journey feels like “continuous stream of losing loving situations.” She had further expressed how, contrary to what victims of suicide loss may feel, it is not wrong to ask, “why?” Omo-Osagie shared his experience in hope of showing how common of an occurrence it is, and that if there are any victims that feel alone they should know there are others going through similar situations.
“Unfortunately we do not talk about [suicide] enough because it is stigmatized,” Omo-Osagie said. “‘What if they think my family is crazy because my brother completed suicide?’ […] I think one of the reasons I do what I do is because I don’t believe not talking about things makes them go away; the more you talk about something the more you know of it, and the less fearful you are of it.”
Omo-Osagie says he lost his brother to suicide.
“I’ll use my brother as a case and point,” he said. “My brother was a very successful man…he owned properties on campus and several small communities; he was a very successful man by the definitions of success of this society, which is money.”
He goes on to describe his very motivated and successful brother, showing how depression, which is highly stigmatized, can happen to anyone.
Omo-Osagie went on to explain why he uses the term “completed” as opposed to “committed.” He, along with the rest of the support community for survivors, tries to remove the stigma that comes with suicide—to make victims feel better about talking about it.
By using a term like “committed,” suicide is made to appear as a crime, but through using “completed” the stigma is removed.
The event went on with survivors sharing personal stories, being supported by the counselors and those who are further along their journeys.
The International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day is, as one would expect given the title, a program that pays little mind to political borders, with events taking place in hundreds of locations around the world.
Survivor Day has its origins in the American National Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, which was born from a resolution put forward to congress by Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who currently serves as senate minority leader, back in 1999. Reid’s father Harry Vincent Reid took his own life in 1972 at 58 years old.
If you, or someone you know, may be struggling with suicide loss or thoughts of suicide you can visit the AFSP’s website—afsp.org—for more information on finding support. Under the “find support” heading there are links to help guide you in determining the appropriate resources for addressing the issue you are facing.
The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also sponsors the operation of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a “free and confidential support” resource for “people in distress.” The helpline’s website can be found at suicidepreventionlifeline.org and, via phone, can be reached 24/7 at: 1-800-273-8255 for English-speakers, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish-speakers, and 1-800-799-4889 for those with hearing difficulties.
Parkland’s own counselors, including Omo-Osagie, are present in the college’s counseling and advising office for support as well. Their services come at no cost to Parkland students and they can help those struggling with loss or self-harm find additional resources in the local community.