This article discusses issues in mental health and suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health or substance abuse crisis or is having suicidal thoughts, call 988 for 24/7 access to trained crisis counselors. For help finding services locally contact Our Village at 863-447-0473.
Losing a loved one is never easy; but losing someone to suicide can have additional challenges. The loss of a loved one by suicide may leave family, friends, and the community wrestling with a tidal wave of feelings and emotions. People who lose someone they care about to suicide may struggle with feelings of anger, confusion, sadness, disbelief, emotional numbness, and possibly even shame due to the stigma associated with suicide. Friends and family may feel intense guilt for not preventing the suicide.
Additionally, feelings of isolation and loneliness may accompany grief. After the loss of a loved one, others may be hesitant to reach out - this is more likely after a loss due to suicide. Suicide is a topic that many people are uncomfortable discussing, therefore people may not know how to approach the topic, or they may avoid it altogether due to the surrounding misconceptions and misinformation. Some religions may not provide services or limit rituals to a person who has died by suicide, which can also contribute to feelings of loneliness.
Studies show an increased risk of mood disorders, PTSD, anxiety, self-harm, and alcohol use disorder in people who have lost a loved one to suicide. Spouses bereaved by a partner’s suicide have a higher risk of developing a mental health disorder within five years. There is a heightened risk of suicide by partners and mothers bereaved by suicide, the risk of required psychiatric care increases for parents bereaved by a child’s suicide, and children bereaved by a parent’s suicide are at an increased risk of depression.
Some people may channel their grief and energy into activism, using their experience to help make a difference in the lives of others. One local example is an amazing young woman named Taylor Craig. Earlier this year Taylor lost her brother, Chase Beal, to suicide. Chase, who was just 19 years old, was a hard worker and a great father; his little girl was his entire world. Taylor spoke fondly of her brother, stating that he was one of the greatest men she’s ever met.
In the aftermath of Chase’s passing, Taylor and her mother were horrified to learn that cleaning up the scene would fall on their shoulders. When dealing with such a tragedy most people don’t realize that they are responsible for hiring a professional company or will have to clean up the scene themselves. Taylor explained that in her research up to this point she has discovered that California is the only state in the U.S. to cover clean-up for families. The cost of biohazard clean-up can run a grieving family anywhere from $2,500 to $30,000 depending on the scene and the amount of time it takes to clean. If a family cannot afford to hire a professional company, they are left to clean up the scene themselves, adding to the trauma the bereaved are already dealing with after such a loss. Taylor explained that when detectives informed her family that they would be responsible for cleaning up, her mother hung her head and said she would do it. Thankfully a family friend stepped in and paid for a cleaning crew.
During the grieving process, Taylor became angry, “no mother, no sibling, no family should ever have to feel that way.” To honor Chase and to ensure no family has to deal with the added financial stress, or worse have to clean up the scene themselves, Taylor decided she needed to do something. She is in the process of establishing partnerships and creating Chaser’s Journey, a non-profit organization dedicated to the citizens of Okeechobee County. The goal of Chaser’s Journey is to assist in providing funding resources for the cleanup and disposal of those who lose their life in this manner here in Okeechobee.
In addition to creating Chaser’s Journey, Taylor also hosted a fishing tournament to help raise money for Chase’s daughter, Izabella, who will be 2 years old this December. The tournament was held on Sept. 10, which was also World Suicide Prevention Day, a fact that Taylor didn’t know at the time of planning. She stated it was only a couple of weeks before the tournament that she learned of the date’s significance, and she believes that it was her brother who guided her to choose the date. The tournament was a success and Taylor was able to deposit nearly $3,000 into her niece’s account.
Suicide takes an enormous toll on the families, friends, and communities left behind. Issues in mental health and suicide cannot be swept under the rug. It can and does impact our little community, we owe it to our families, friends, and neighbors to have the tough discussions. Suicide is preventable. Services are available. You are not alone.