CULVER CITY, CA -- (Marketwired) -- 08/27/15 -- The first time Ann Taylor attempted suicide, a friend accused her of being selfish for putting her family through so much pain. Feeling ashamed, she decided to keep her suicidal feelings to herself and tried to kill herself several more times over the next five years -- until she found a life-saving outlet in a Didi Hirsch Survivors of Suicide Attempt support group.
"Friends and family don't really understand and are scared, so you learn to keep the feelings secret," says Ann, who never struggled with mental health issues until she experienced a series of losses over a two-year period that included her divorce and the deaths of both of her parents and a close friend. "But people in the group have been there and understand what it's like to be hopeless. We can talk about our deepest, most negative thoughts honestly and openly, without feeling judged."
In 2013, the most recent year for which there is data, more than 41,000 people died by suicide and about 1 million attempted it. Because of social stigma, fear and shame, suicide attempt survivors were not included in suicide prevention discussions until recently. Addressing this unmet need, Didi Hirsh became a leader in 2011 when it developed Survivors of Suicide Attempt groups to support people who have attempted suicide.
Now listed on the Suicide Prevention Resource Center's national registry for best practices, the groups have become a model for other agencies worldwide; Didi Hirsch has received more than 100 requests for information and recommendations about launching safe and effective support groups. Didi Hirsch created a manual that is available for download at www.didihirsch.org/spc.
The support groups are headed by a licensed therapist and peer co-facilitator who meet for eight weeks and offer members a chance to check in about their feelings and talk about coping skills and strategies for keeping themselves safe. "Participants have experienced measurable reductions in suicidal desire and intent and significant increases in hopefulness and resilience," says Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services President/CEO Dr. Kita S. Curry.
"I know from personal experience that people attempt suicide when they are alone and in so much pain that they don't see another way out," says Dr. Curry. "Our Survivors of Suicide Attempt support groups give people a safe place to talk about their feelings, tools for finding new ways to cope and the kind of empathy that leads to hope."
Ann, who participated in three support groups before becoming a peer co-facilitator last year, hasn't attempted suicide since she became involved in the program. "I still go through large bouts of depression where I'm feeling suicidal, but I'm much safer now," Ann says. "I know I can reach out if I need to."
About Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services
With more than 70 years of experience, Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services transforms lives by providing quality mental health and substance abuse treatment in communities where stigma or poverty limits access. From 11 locations throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties and about 100 schools, Didi Hirsch helps more than 90,000 children, families and adults each year.
Didi Hirsch's Suicide Prevention Center helps people at risk of suicide, concerned loved ones and those who have lost someone to suicide. The first in the nation to establish a 24-hour hotline, the Suicide Prevention Center's crisis counselors answered more than 62,000 calls, chats and texts in 2014. The Center offers support groups for people who have attempted suicide or are grieving a suicidal loss. It is one of five in the nation taking calls for the national Disaster Distress Helpline. Learn more at www.didihirsch.org or follow on Twitter and Facebook.
LFPR (for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services)
949-502-6200 ext. 218
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