Samaritans Safe Place Program Helps Those Who Have Lost A Loved One To Suicide
Samaritans Suicide Survivor Support Group Program provides those who have lost someone they love or are close to (“suicide survivors”) with a supportive and caring environment designed to help them cope with their loss in the company of others who have had the same experience.
Samaritans, which established the first “suicide survivor” support group program in New York City and has been the acknowledged source of inspiration of the majority of the groups that have followed, hosts our support group meetings twice a month at easily accessible locations in Manhattan. The meetings are free of charge and those who attend must be a minimum of 18 years of age.
Meetings are run by trained facilitators that are, also, respected Samaritans volunteers who are experienced in dealing with the complex issues surrounding suicide and its aftermath. The meetings are run as peer support groups, where the people participating have the opportunity to focus on their thoughts, feelings, challenges and difficulties coping with their loss, without any undo pressures or expectations or other people judging them or giving them advice.
Many participants say Safe Place is the only place where they can openly address what they are going through without having to be concerned about other people’s attitudes or judgments. Those who attend include people coping with the loss of a parent, spouse, child, life partner, best friend or other loved one. Their loss may be as recent as a few months previous, a year, or 5, 10 or more years. Individuals attend on a regular basis, on occasion and/or at those times like an anniversary or before the holidays where group support is so important.
“The compassion and understanding I found at Safe Place after the suicide of my husband showed me I was neither isolated nor alone. Talking with others who have also been there helps us to heal, rebuild and eventually rejoice.” Carla Fine, No Time to Say Goodbye: Surviving the Suicide of a Loved One
The Need For A Safe Place
Safe Place is the name of Samaritans suicide survivor program with the focus being, as the name implies, to provide those who are trying to cope with their loss and its aftermath with a supportive environment that is confidential and non-judgmental and where those in attendance have had similar experiences.
To maintain the safety and confidential nature of the meetings for every one in attendance, participants must have had a close, personal or some form of intimate relationship with the person they lost. As a result, participants are not allowed to be accompanied by friends or others to provide support—That is the role of the group and the facilitators.
This need to maintain a Safe Place means that students of suicide prevention, including clinicians, researchers, creative artists, writers and others who want to attend the meeting in order to learn about this issue and how it impacts people are, also, barred from the meetings. There are no exceptions.
Understanding the Survivor Experience
Suicide survivors can experience the same emotions (anxiety, despair, anger, denial, shock, isolation, etc.) and major life-changing circumstances that all people experience when they lose someone they love or are close to, but frequently these emotions and states of mind are much more acute and longer-lasting.
Due to stigma and the many misconceptions people have about suicide, survivors, also, often experience intense feelings of guilt and shame; sometimes actually being blamed (or blaming themselves) for not being able to prevent the death. This exacerbates and complicates an already painful experience and can deny survivors the usual familial and community support extended to those who are grieving.
Though every individual touched by the loss from suicide is significant, caregivers and health providers should be mindful that extra attention should be placed on those individuals who are most vulnerable, have experienced other losses, traumas or mental illness or were closely related in some manner to the deceased.
Obviously family, close friends and others who have had a personal relationship with the person who died fit this category but so do caregivers, teachers, coaches, co-workers, guidance counselors, therapists, clergy and many others.
To learn more about Safe Place meetings and guidelines to attend, click here.
To download a Safe Place Support Group Flier, click here.
For information about how to make a referral to Safe Place, click here.
For immediately accessible, ongoing emotional support, survivors are welcome to call our 24-hour Crisis Hotline at any time to speak with one of our trained volunteers about their thoughts and feelings tied to their loss. The hotline number is (212) 673-3000. Please note that every individual who calls the hotline is assessed for suicide risk and is asked about their feelings, what is going on for them now, and whether they have thoughts of suicide (no matter how they identify themselves or their stated reason for calling). The hotline is often used as a complement to other forms of support, such as therapy or a support group.