November 23rd is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, and on Saturday, Montana survivors gathered at the Capitol in Helena to connect, learn, and heal.
“For many loss survivors, attending a Survivor Day event is an opportunity to discover that they are not alone in their experience of losing someone they know and love to suicide,” said Tova Reddick-Starkel, an organizer for the local event.
Luminaries were placed on the grand staircase of the rotunda with pairs of shoes that represented each person lost to suicide in Lewis and Clark County in 2018.
This is the third year the event has been held in Helena. It featured a resource fair, a short documentary “Pathways to Healing: Hope After Suicide Loss” by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and a panel discussion for attendees to participate in.
“Part of this event is not only just geared towards the healing of those who have lost someone to suicide, but it’s also to look forward and finding hope,” said Reddick-Starkel. “To train people and provide resources on how we can recognize this in our loved ones and situations in the future.”
Keynote Speaker Paul Harman, associate chief of staff for Behavioral Health at the Montana VA Health Care System, discussed healing as a community after suicide loss.
“As a mental health professional I feel like I should have all the answers,” Harman told the crowd. “Not have anyone I love or care about have any struggles or have issues I can’t handle. Life continues to teach me that this is not the case.”
Harman spoke about a dear friend he lost to suicide and the importance of the community in helping those in need.
“I’m hoping that we can inspire each other today to be the change this world needs,” said Harman.
Survivor Day was created by an act of Congress in 1999 and since then has been sponsored and supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Satuday’s event is possible due to a collaborative partnership between the East Helena Suicide Prevention and Awareness Coalition, the Lewis and Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Center for Mental Health, Western Montana Mental Health Clinic, Breathe Let's Start a Conversation, and the Montana VA Health Care System.
If you or a loved one are have thoughts of suicide, please reach out.
The Montana Suicide Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 or you can text “MT” to 741 741. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
More information about resources available for suicide prevention and survivor of suicide loss can be found at any of these sites.