Life after suicide

 

Tomorrow, Saturday 20 November, is the international memorial day for people bereaved by suicide. The two women featured in this video, Karen-Lee Johansen and Leigh White, have both had family members who took their own lives. Tomorrow both women, along with others who have lost loved ones to suicide, will take part in a memorial ceremony to be held beside the harbour at Balmoral on Sydney's north shore.

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Johansen and White met each other in a group convened by the Salvation Army, and run by Dr Diana Sands, to help people come to terms with loss from suicide. Sands has developed a tripartite model, a three-stage process for people struggling with this particularly painful form of bereavement.

In the supportive environment of closed group sessions, Sands facilitates members metaphorically trying on the shoes of the loved one who has suicided, then walking in their shoes, and finally taking off the shoes and saying goodbye.

In this interview with Eureka Street TV, Johansen and White talk about their loss and bereavement, and the stigma, shame, guilt and bewilderment that are part of bereavement from suicide. They describe how Sands' program helped them deal with these crippling emotions, and led them to want to support others.

At the completion of the group process, Johansen and White, along with three other women, founded the support group Wings of Hope, which has just launched its website.

The statistics on suicide show how vital such support services are. Around 2000 Australians die every year from suicide. Males account for almost 80 per cent of these, and suicide is the cause of nearly one fifth of all deaths among men aged 20 to 34. About 100 school age children take their own lives every year.

The effects of these deaths ripple out to the deceased person's family, relatives, friends and colleagues.

Wings of Hope is testament to the fact that recovery and healing is possible even after the devastation of losing someone to suicide. 

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Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a Master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Wings of Hope, suicide, support, Karen-Lee Johansen, Leigh White