Suicide survivor group seeks to help families dealing with loss

Suicide rates decrease during the holidays (WDTN Photo)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — It took years before Sallie Wilson Luther was able to open up about a tragic loss.

“I lost my sister fifteen years ago,” recalled Luther. “My older sister.”

Luther’s sister died by suicide. While sitting inside the office for the ADAMHS Board of Montgomery County, Luther shared the feelings she went through in the years that followed.

“As a family, I think it was a real struggle even talking about it,” said Luther. “There’s guilt because you wonder if there was something more you could have done.”

It was when she started talking about it, however, that Luther found she was not alone in the experience.

As she opened up, she found countless others were going through the same experiences.

“In the last nine years, Montgomery County has had 693 suicides,” said Cindy Mockabee, Program Director for the ADAMHS Board of Montgomery County. “That’s an average of 77 a year. When you compare that to the same time frame for homicides, we’ve had more suicides than homicides.”

According to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, there 440 homicides between 2006 and 2014. It is 253 fewer deaths than those by suicide in the same time period.

The high amount of suicides has prompted the ADAMHS Board and the Dayton Police Department to start a new group aimed at helping families who are survivors.

That’s when the Local Outreach for Suicide Survivors, or LOSS Team, was formed.

The LOSS Team will operate in conjunction with the Dayton Police Department. When a suicide is reported, a group of three will be called to the scene to offer resources and support for the family. Organizers said the group will likely be made up of an officer, a mental health expert, and a trained-volunteer from LOSS Team.

It is the hours after a suicide is reported that Mockabee said can be crucial for helping the survivors.

“Those who have been left behind from a suicide are at a higher risk of suicide themselves,” said Mockabee. “When you have this rapid response to get out to the scene and meet with the families of the ones that are left behind, they then seek out resources quicker.”

It is an outreach survivors like Luther believe can make a difference for people dealing with tragedy.

“I think it did help me out a lot,” said Luther. “As I met other people who have gone through the experience, I have reached out to them.”

The LOSS Team is seeking volunteers to help families after a suicide is reported. Anyone interested is asked to call the ADAMHS Board of Montgomery County for more information at (937)443-0416.

A Walk to Fight Suicide is also planned to raise awareness of suicide. The event will be held at Oakwood High School on October 25th. Registration begins at 1:00 p.m. with the walk starting at 2:00 p.m. Proceeds go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

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