Se­cond An­nual Sur­vivors of Sui­cide Loss event set for Nov. 19 in Brandy­wine

Group aims to bring heal­ing, com­mu­nity to those deal­ing with loss of loved one

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

For those left be­hind af­ter a loved one takes their own life, the road to re­cov­ery can be a long and tan­gled one — but Sue Maska­leris, co-chair­woman of the South­ern Mary­land Out of the Dark­ness Walk, said there is strength in com­mu­nity.

The South­ern Mary­land Out of the Dark­ness Walk and the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion of Sui­cide Preven­tion, Mary­land Chapter, of which Maska­leris is a board mem­ber, will be host­ing the Se­cond An­nual South­ern Mary­land Sur­vivors of Sui­cide Loss Day from 1-4 p.m. Nov. 19 at St. Paul’s Epis­co­pal Church, 13500 Baden West­wood Road in Brandy­wine.

“The whole point of Sur­vivors Day is to get our sur­vivors to­gether to come and share, and some­times just be­ing in the same room as other sur­vivors helps,” Maska­leris said.

The event will fea­ture the 30-minute AFSP film, “Life Jour­neys: Re­claim- ing Life Af­ter Loss.”

“It’s go­ing to be from the per­spec­tive of sur­vivors who are sev­eral years out from their loss, and how they have man­aged it,” Maska­leris said.

Maska­leris said she hopes the event will make it eas­ier for sur­vivors to find heal­ing on their jour- ney. It’s a jour­ney Mas- ka­leris has been on since she lost her fa­ther to sui- cide in 1971.

“Even af­ter 45 years, the heal­ing jour­ney changes you in ways you wouldn’t ex­pect,” Maskeleris said.

Maska­leris said it took her decades to for­give her fa­ther for tak­ing his own life when she was 14.

“I’ve now come to the con­clu­sion that there’s noth­ing to for­give,” Maska­leris said. “I look at it [like] from dy­ing from can­cer. You don’t for­give some­one for dy­ing from can­cer, there’s noth­ing to for­give.”

Maska­leris said her own ex­pe­ri­ences with de­pres- sion helped her to bet­ter un­der­stand men­tal ill­ness that leads to sui­cide.

“It’s like tun­nel vi­sion; you lose the cop­ing skills to see your way out of it,” Maska­leris said. “I could see where some­one could get into that frame of mind.”

Nov. 19 is In­ter­na­tional Sur­vivors of Sui­cide Loss Day. In 1999, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D) of Ne­vada, who lost his fa­ther to sui­cide in 1972, in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion declar- ing the Satur­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing as Sui­cide Loss Day.

The Cen­ters for Dis- ease Con­trol and Preven- tion re­ports that in 2014, the most re­cent year for which it has data, sui­cide was the se­cond lead­ing cause of death in the U.S. for those ages 10 to 34, and the 10th lead­ing cause of death for all age groups, with 42,773 re­ported sui­cides in 2014.

Maka­leris said one of the goals of the event is to pro­vide sur­vivors a safe place to talk about and share their grief with oth­ers who will un­der­stand.

“A lot of times, for peo­ple who are loss sur­vivors, there’s such a stigma at­tached [to sui­cide] that it be­comes very dif­fi­cult for them to speak about their loved ones,” Maska­leris said. “It helps some­times to hear some­one say that they didn’t leave you, that they weren’t weak, that they weren’t self­ish, all these things that peo­ple who don’t un­der­stand throw out, it doesn’t help.”

Co-or­ga­nizer John Sta­ples, project man­ager for War on Stress, a project of the non­profit United Char­i­ta­ble, will also be lead­ing a ses­sion on man­ag­ing stress.

“Tak­ing care of loss sur­vivors is im­por­tant,” Maska­leris said. “The risk for sui­cide is higher in sur­vivors, so we want to take care of our sur­vivors, too.”

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