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Excerpted from Suicide Survivors as First Responders: The LOSS Team. Complete text of the article here.

Dr. Edwin Shneidman suggested the concept of “postvention as prevention for the next generation” in the preface to Al Cain’s publication Survivors of Suicide first published in 1972. That concept of postvention as prevention has governed my work with suicide survivors since 1986. It has been my personal goal to interrupt the multi-generational impact of risk that survivors are often reported to have as a legacy of suicide.

Too many survivors would seek support to cope with their loss if they knew help was available. Most referrals for suicide survivors groups come from physicians or nurses who share the information when the death is pronounced in a hospital. Unfortunately for many, a hospital is never involved, therefore eliminating a prime referral resource for survivors. Even when resources are available in communities, the length of time between the death and the survivor seeking help is too long due partially to the lack of knowledge of the resources by the survivors and by gatekeepers.

I envisioned an active model of postvention made up of a team of trained survivors who would go to the scenes of suicides to disseminate information about resources and be the installation of hope for the newly bereaved. The primary goal of the APM is to let suicide survivors know that resources exist as soon as possible following the death.

To accomplish that goal I recruited a team of twelve volunteers in November of 1997 (four staff and eight suicide survivors). They received survivor visitor training with Iris Bolton (The Link Counseling Center in Atlanta, Ga.) and then continued to attend monthly training sessions to enhance attending skills and to develop protocols for going to the scenes of suicides. The group was named the LOSS Team (Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors.)

Suicide Survivors as First Responders: The LOSS Team

It was after a year of training that the new coroner, Dr. Louis Cataldie invited us to become first responders to suicides in our parish (county). In the area we serve, there is a suicide about every eight days. The frequency of suicide quickly provided the team opportunities to demonstrate our effectiveness at the scenes. The team has now contributed their services to more than 240 suicides. New members have been trained and the organization is more highly developed than anyone could have imagined.

Interested parties in other communities have received training related to the active postvention model and each week others wanting to start a loss team in their communities contact lossteam.com to find out how to get started.

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