LOSS Team to Assist Those Impacted by Suicide

The Tulare & Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force, in partnership with the Kings County and Tulare County Sheriff’s Department Coroner’s Offices and the Police Chiefs’ Association of Tulare County, have announced the launch of the LOSS Team to assist those impacted by suicide deaths.

The Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors, or LOSS Team, was developed by Dr. Frank Campbell of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is comprised of volunteers who serve as a primary support and referral resource to local survivors of suicide loss. The team will function around-the-clock and respond immediately to the scene of suspected suicide deaths. Team members will interact with loss survivors and provide them with resources and support so that they do not have to feel alone as they seek to deal with the emotions that accompany loosing someone to suicide.

Law enforcement has long noted the need to support those who are impacted by suicide loss. In this year alone, Tulare County has lost 41 people and Kings County has lost 14 people to suicide.

“It is often difficult to leave suicide loss survivors without additional support and resources,” said Kings County Coroner, Sgt. Tom Edmonds.

“A team of trained people to assist us in providing support to the survivors in these most tragic of situations is absolutely critical,” added Tulare County Coroner, Sgt. Tom Wright.

Six years ago, Carla Sawyer, a public health nurse with Tulare County Health & Human Services Agency, lost her son Bo to suicide and began a monthly support group for suicide loss survivors. That support group was supplemented by the development of a free grief and bereavement counseling program to provide therapeutic services to those struggling with loss. The advent of the LOSS Team to proactively reach out to the newly bereaved means a comprehensive range of services are now available to help interrupt the cycle of generational suicide.

“November 23 is International Survivors of Suicide Day and I cannot think of a better day to announce the launch of our new team,” said Task Force Coordinator Noah Whitaker. “This day focuses on heightening awareness of the struggles faced by those who have lost someone to suicide.”

“Each death forever alters the lives of friends, family members, loved-ones, co- workers and others who are directly impacted by the loss,” noted Jackie Jones Siegenthaler, Kings County’s Suicide Prevention coordinator.

Mary Anne Ford Sherman, director of Kings County Behavioral Health Services, commented, “The LOSS Team is possible because of the dedicated team of individuals who have trained, studied and committed to be a resource to our community.”

“The development of a local LOSS Team by myriad community partners, including local law enforcement, represents the next logical step in meeting the mission and vision of the Tulare and Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force’” said Cheryl Duerksen, Ph.D., director of Tulare County Health & Human Resources Agency. “The provision of comprehensive services by trained and dedicated volunteers not only meets our public health mandate to broadly intervene in all cases of suicide, but embraces the best of our humanity as we collectively extend open arms of support during times of community tragedy.”

For more information about local suicide prevention efforts, visit www.sptf.org or www.facebook.com/hope.sptf. For more information about International Survivors of Suicide Day, visit www.afsp.org/coping-with-suicide/international-survivors-of-suicide-day.

Tulare & Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force is funded by California’s Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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