The Survivors of Suicide Loss Day will be today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 200 Valencia Drive in Jacksonville. It offers survivors the opportunity to share their stories of loss and healing, while also providing information about resources available locally.

Each year, survivors come together in their journey of grief borne out of a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

It’s a topic that is still brushed under the rug, taboo, attached to a stigma and the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, 42,773 Americans die from suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Even more loved ones are left behind to embark on a journey of grief and acceptance.

Amy Sullivan’s journey began three years ago after her nephew successfully completed suicide, and now she’s working as a support group facilitator to raise awareness and provide support to the community. She also co-chaired Onslow County’s Out of the Darkness walk in October.

“In the meantime in New York, I ran a support group, as well as attended there, so we had really lots of stuff happening there, lots of support. And then I moved here and started looking for things to get involved in and there was just nothing, so I decided that I was going to start something,” Sullivan said.

She began a support group through AFSP that meets at the main library in Jacksonville in the evening of the second Tuesday of every month. She also set up an International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event locally.

“While I am a clinical social worker, it’s not a therapy session,” Sullivan said. “It’s not a grief support group. It can be, I guess, but the people that have been coming, it’s not tearful, it’s more hopeful would probably be the best way to describe it.”

The Survivors of Suicide Loss Day will be today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 200 Valencia Drive in Jacksonville. It offers survivors the opportunity to share their stories of loss and healing, while also providing information about resources available locally.

Sullivan found several resources to be helpful not only to her, but to her family, including the survivor outreach program.

“We called the agency and they basically sent someone who had also lost a family member or friend, had been through this sort of surreal experience — because that’s exactly what it is — so they sent someone to my parents and that was a huge help, having that connection,” she said.

She’s also benefited from the support groups she has been attended and facilitated.

“For me personally, it was groups and knowing there were other people who had gone through it and were smiling afterwards and on the other side of it,” she said, adding that the walks were also helpful. “The walk’s No. 3 just because there are so many people who are affected by suicide that will come to a walk because you’re in hundreds of people so no one really knows you, so it’s nice to know that we’re not alone and that other people are affected and all walks of life show up at these events.”

Sullivan recalled a homeless woman who had happened to walk past Onslow County’s recent Walk out of Darkness, who had also been affected by a loss from suicide.

“There’s no boundary when it comes to suicide,” Sullivan said. “You could be the richest person in the world, you could be the poorest person in the world, you could be black, white, Asian, I mean it really just doesn’t matter. Male, female, age range—everyone is affected.”

And that’s what makes awareness so important because it can affect anyone, yet the stigma is still there.

“I think that sometimes suicide is still kind of brushed under the table or not really talked about and that makes it so hard, especially if you’re the one having those ideations where you feel like, ‘Oh my life’s not worth living,’ to not know there’s things you can do when you feel that way,” Linda Kopec, principal of Parkwood Elementary School and co-leader of Onslow County Schools’ traumatic event crisis team, said.

Before she came to Onslow County Schools, Kopec worked as a suicide prevention specialist in northern Virginia, so she recognizes the signs of a person considering suicide. Things like withdrawing from family and friends or things they used to be interested in, giving away objects to family and friends, or being suddenly happy after being depressed or sad are some things to look for, she said.

“Sometimes you’ll have someone that has been depressed or sad and then all of a sudden, they seem like everything’s fine and often that’s because they’ve resolved within themselves that they made the decision to end their life,” Kopec said.

While some signs a person is considering suicide can be easy to recognize, being comfortable talking to the person and addressing it is not always easy.

“You’re afraid to say the wrong thing so you just don’t say anything, which is awful because the person feels even worse,” Kopec said. “If you’re not comfortable approaching that person or saying anything, certainly reach out to someone else, often it’s a pastor if you’re involved in a church or in a school, we have school counselors in every school in the county. Even if you feel uncomfortable, you’ll feel worse if you don’t do something.”

Part of what makes the journey of recovering from a suicide loss so difficult is the guilt that can sometimes come with the loss.

“There’s a lot of guilt for survivors of suicide and so I think it’s important to try to connect with someone who has gone through a similar type of loss,” Kopec said.

While problems may seem too large and unsolvable at the time, Kopec said suicide is not the solution.

“Reach out and find someone to help you solve it if you can’t work it out yourself,” she said. “That would be the biggest message that I’d want to get out there, whether you’re a 6-year-old or a 60-year-old. Suicide’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

For more information about Sullivan’s monthly support group, visit AFSP.org/Support_Group/Jacksonville-Survivors-Suicide/.

For information about another local support group, visit CompassionateFriends.org/chapter/jacksonville-nc-tcf-chapter/.

Along with the International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day event in Jacksonville, there will also be an Out of the Darkness community walk March 26 at 1 p.m. at Soundside Park in Surf City. For more information, visit AFSP.donordrive.com and search for your local walk.

Help is available for those who are considering suicide. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.