When someone you love dies, the heartbreak is immense.
But when that death is by suicide, the process of grieving can be complex and hard to understand.
Every year, more than 800,000 people die by suicide and up to 25 times that many make a suicide attempt.
Those figures are worldwide – but the problem closer to home is no less alarming and currently having an immense affect on Merseyside families trying to pick up the pieces after a death by suicide.
And a community-based charity in Whiston has launched a unique new project to support families and friends of those left bereaved by the suicide of a loved one.
The initiative by Caring Connections comes at a time of mounting pressure to provide bereavement counselling in an area described as having an “unprecedented demand” for these services.
Paul Growney, chief executive at Caring Connections, explained: “At the moment, there is a waiting time of between three and four months for bereavement counselling in Knowsley and these NHS sessions are group-based rather than on an individual basis. This situation is due to the unprecedented demand for the service.
“Privately, it can cost up to £40 per session which is unaffordable to many people in Knowsley, an area classified as being in the top ten most deprived local authorities in England.”
The Caring Connections bereavement counselling will be free on a weekly basis to group members. With meetings held in a local hall in Whiston, sessions will be run by an experienced grief worker and the charity is also looking to partner with a fully-trained bereavement counsellor from the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy to provide free weekly counselling service for individuals.
At group meetings, there’ll be a chance for people to talk about their feelings, how the bereavement has affected them and coping strategies will be put in place as well as opportunities for peer support.
Paul continued: “Following the death of a loved one by suicide, acute grief can gain a foothold and only worsen over time rather than get better; this is called complicated grief. Emotional dependence can complicate the grieving process, especially for those who have cared for someone over a number of years and have been left with a void in their lives following their death.
“Counselling and one-to-one support have been shown in independent academic studies to help prevent complicated grief and mental health issues – leading to another family suicide – from potentially happening.
“Currently, there are no other support groups in Knowsley dealing with the effects of bereavement by suicide. There used to be a local Life After Bereavement group but this ended last year.”
Caring Connections, which works throughout the area among people with care needs and their families, also plans to provide suicide awareness training for carers, its own staff as well as members of the wider community.
Paul added: “This would entail them being trained to look for signs among those who may potentially be vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and to help them seek early support rather than suffer alone and attempt suicide.”
Caring Connections, formerly known as Care and Respite Support Services, is based at the George Howard Centre, Lickers Lane, Whiston L35 5SR. For more information, go to www.caringconnections.org.uk