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Breaking the Stigma: Resources available to heal after a suicide loss

Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 12:07 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Many health experts were concerned the number of people who died by suicide last year would go up because of the challenges the pandemic presented. Overall nationally, that didn’t happen. According to the JAMA network, suicides actually went down in 2020. In 2020, 44,834 people died by suicide compared to 47,511 people in 2019.

According to the Helpline Center, there were still 184 people who died by suicide in 2020 in South Dakota. That was one less than the previous year. The Helpline Center offers several resources to help suicide survivors get through a never-ending grieving process. Suicide survivors are people who have lost a loved one to suicide.

Takara Schomberg lost her sister, Kayli, to suicide towards the end of 2018. Takara was the oldest of four girls. Kayli was two years younger than her.

“That is obviously a big void for me because that was my person,” Schomberg said.

Kayli was a sports nutritionist at Florida State. Schomberg said she advocated for mental health for athletes and those around her.

“Because as a suicide loss survivor, someone would say, ‘Well was she sad?’ You’re like, it’s way more complicated than that. It wasn’t just a bad day. She had had struggles off and on, any of us do. But for whatever reason that day, her struggles overwhelmed her and she lost that fight,” Schomberg said.

According to research, those who have lost a loved one to suicide have a higher risk of committing suicide themselves. Schomberg is a mental health nurse and knew this statistic. So the day after she found out about her sister’s death, she signed up online to receive a support packet from the Helpline Center in Sioux Falls.

“It’s not like I had to talk to anybody or anything. I just turned in my information, and I planned to do something with it later,” Takara said.

About six months after Kayli died, Takara met with the Surviving After Suicide Support group.

“So we sit in here, and we talk about what’s going on with them and what are some helpful things. And I know especially for some new survivors that even if you don’t want to share anything or you’re not ready to, just simply being here and listening to other people share can be a help to people,” Sheri Nelson said.

Nelson is the suicide prevention director at the Helpline Center. The Surviving After Suicide Support group meets once a month. The amount of people who meet each month varies, but there’s usually around a dozen.

“Talking to people who had been through the same thing, there’s just something different about that; that when you shared some of the things that people said that were hurtful, not intentionally hurtful, but not helpful, they’re like, ‘Ugh. I hear that too. Here’s how I respond or here’s how I’ve worked through that,’” Schomberg said.

“When someone loses someone to suicide, survivors are left with that unique type of grief because they have a lot of questions of why did this happen,” Nelson said. “So being in a group with other survivors that have gone through a similar thing is a huge help.”

It’s a free service the Helpline Center offers. The easiest way to get in contact with them is to call 211. If you or someone you know needs help with suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255.

The Helpline Center also offers training for the public when it comes to suicide prevention and the warning signs to look for.

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