|GREATER SPRINGFIELD Research shows that during the course of a person's lifetime, more than 60 percent of them will know someone who dies by suicide and more than 20 percent of of people will lose a family member. Every suicide leaves behind family members and friends "survivors" to cope with the loss.|
To help, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has created the Survivor Outreach Program, which sends specially-trained volunteers who are survivors themselves to visit with those who are recently bereaved.
Visits are made upon request only, and volunteers provide information about local resources, including support groups, healing conferences and suggested reading materials. They will also listen, share their own experiences and offer reassurance that surviving suicide loss is possible.
"When you lose a loved one to suicide, it can feel like no one really understands what you're going through. Survivors often feel like they are alone," Joanne Harpel, AFSP's senior director for public affairs and postvention, said. "AFSP's trained volunteer survivors have been there, so they can offer invaluable support, information and reassurance."
This program is currently offered through several AFSP chapters nationwide including, the Western Massachusetts Chapter. Volunteer Jim McAleer of West Springfield is the Western Mass-achusetts coordinator.
"Having suffered a loss myself, I know how important this program can be for survivors," he said.
Those interested in scheduling a visit should go to www.afsp.org/outreachprogram for more information.
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