Help­ing to un­der­stand and heal

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

For those left be­hind af­ter a loved one takes their own life, the road to re­cover y can be a long and tan­gled one, but Sue Maska­leris says there is great strength in com­mu­nity.

And if you’re oc­ca­sion­ally in­clined to go a lit­tle out of your way for a good cause, this would be the time. The South­ern Mary­land Out of the Dark­ness Walk (of which Maska­leris is co-chair) and the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion of Sui­cide Prevention’s Mar yland chap­ter (of which she is a board mem­ber) will be host­ing their sec­ond South­ern Mary­land Sur­vivors of Sui­cide Loss Day from 1 to 4 p.m. to­mor­row, Satur­day, Nov. 19, at St. Paul’s Epis­co­pal Church in Brandy­wine.

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.

It’s part of a na­tional movement, and to­mor­row’s event is open to all from South­ern Mary­land.

“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: Re­claim­ing Life Af­ter Loss.”

The tim­ing of the event is in­ten­tional. Nov. 19 is In­ter­na­tional Sur­vivors of Sui­cide Loss Day. In 1999, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who lost his fa­ther to sui­cide in 1972, in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion declar­ing the Satur­day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing as Sui­cide Loss Day.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention re­ports that in 2014, the most re­cent year for which it has data, sui­cide was the sec­ond lead­ing cause of death in the United States for those ages 10 to 34, and the 10th lead­ing cause of death for all age groups, with 42,773 re­ported sui­cides in 2014.

We prob­a­bly know some­one in our own fam­ily or work­place who has wres­tled with sui­ci­dal thoughts or who has even at­tempted to end their life, and we wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily see the warn­ing signs. With so many tragic events hap­pen­ing around the world, the dis­cus­sion about men­tal ill­ness has come to the fore­front in re­cent years. But it still doesn’t re­ceive the at­ten­tion, fund­ing and un­der­stand­ing as other mal­adies.

Peo­ple who are strug­gling with de­pres­sion can’t sim­ply “get over” whatev- er is both­er­ing them.

To fur­ther com­pli­cate things, symp­toms of de­pres­sion aren’t often alike. Those of us who do not live with de­pres­sion often find it dif­fi­cult to re­late with those who do suf­fer daily.

While we don’t need to un­der­stand the why, we should em­pathize and of­fer sup­port.

Maska­leris said she hopes the event will make it eas­ier for sur­vivors to find heal­ing on their jour­ney. It’s a jour­ney she’s been on since she lost her fa­ther to sui­cide in 1971. “Even af­ter 45 years, the heal­ing jour­ney changes you in ways you wouldn’t ex­pect,” she said. “I’ve now come to the con­clu­sion that there’s noth­ing to for­give. I look at it [like] dy­ing from can­cer. You don’t for­give some­one for dy­ing from can­cer. There’s noth­ing to for­give.”

Satur­day’s event also aims to pro­vide sur­vivors with a safe place to talk about and share their grief with oth­ers who will un­der­stand. “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,” Maska­leris said.

If you’d like to help some­how but can’t par­tic­i­pate in to­mor­row’s event in per­son, get in touch with Maska­leris at sur­vivor­daysomd@gmail.com. Aware­ness and di­a­logue are crit­i­cal com­po­nents in help­ing stop this tragic, per­ma­nent solution to a tem­po­rary prob­lem.

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