Editor’s note: The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a hotline for people in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who will listen and provide resources and support.
This is the first in a series of occasional stories about suicide.
In the latest installment of our conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, JaMonica Lee, director of interns at My Health My Resources of Tarrant County, discusses suicide postvention — and why it matters in the aftermath of a loss.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For a longer version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.
JaMonica Lee: So when I think of postvention, I just think of an organized response to the aftermath of a suicide.
Allison: I’m wondering why it matters and how it’s connected to prevention efforts as well.
Lee: Postvention is prevention. Because if we can capture those individuals, those loved ones who have lost someone to suicide, we know that they are at a greater risk of suicide. So when we capture them right then and there, we are also preventing another suicide. So for me, postvention is prevention.
Allison: Is there a specific timeline that’s recommended for connecting with these people after a loss?
Lee: We respond within 39 days (on average). And so the goal is, as soon as we hear of a suicide, we want to be very quickly responding to the family’s needs.
Allison: And when you say ‘We,’ are you talking specifically about the LOSS team?
Lee: Yes, yes. So the LOSS team, which is the Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors, (is) made up of a number of individuals who have had that experience with suicide. They’ve lost someone to suicide. And then we have other individuals who just are passionate about it, that makes up the LOSS team.
Allison: And what do they actually do? What does their outreach look like?
Lee: We provide support and resources. But most of all, we provide an installation of hope right then and there. When we hear of that suicide, we’re reaching out to them, we’re letting them know that we are here for you. That there is hope after suicide.
Allison: Say I had just lost someone to suicide. And within I think you said 39 days, I heard from someone within the LOSS team. Can you tell me what I might expect those resources or that support to look like?
Lee: We have a SOS group, which is our survivors of suicide — we meet every month. So we’re going to offer that group. Not only are we going to cater to you, but if you have family members, if there are children, we have resources for every age group. We also are going to connect you with one of the members of our LOSS team. We have individuals who have lost spouses, children, friends, just in every capacity (who have first-hand experience of the grieving process). So we’d like to link that individual with someone that they can really relate to.
Allison: So that you’re not going through your loss alone.
Lee: Exactly. You’re not going through it alone. Someone there to just listen to you to help you through it. And I think it’s so good when we see other survivors continuing to live life — it’s just so encouraging.
Allison: If someone is listening to this audio and wants to get connected to the LOSS team after a loss, how would they go about doing that?
Lee: There’s ways you can reach us. We have our email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also our phone number is 682-263-LOSS. And so we’re there. We have individuals that are ready to take the call, that are ready to just help right then and there.
Allison: Thank you. And then if there’s someone who’s listening who wants to be a part of the LOSS team as a volunteer, how can they get connected? And is there any criteria that they need to meet before they can be connected?
Lee: They could send us an email to our LOSS email or give us a phone call, (and) we’ll send them an application. The only thing that we ask is that that loss has been at least two years removed, because it’s very heavy. We want to make sure that they are ready to go out there, because they’re going to be talking to individuals who have lost someone as well. And we would love to have them on board.
Allison: Thank you. And is there anything else that you’d like to share?
Lee: What I love about MHMR is that we have so many different programs. And just,
what we love is to link people to the right resources. So we have our ICARE call center. And individuals can call our call center who may be experiencing mental health issues. And if they just want someone to talk to, we can connect them to all of the resources.
You can reach our call center at 817-335-3022. And we have qualified mental health professionals ready to take the call.
Allison: And I think I know the answer to this, but is all of this for free?
Lee: What I love about our resources is that they are free of cost. They’re available to individuals who would like it.
Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.