Suicide Related Grief and Support Services

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Editor’s Note. This week’s editorial is a guest piece by Nichole Ivey, the DFC Program Coordinator at Strategies for a Stronger Sanford.

Suicidal thoughts and ideations do not discriminate; they invade the minds of people across all demographics, effectively breaking down barriers of race, religion, age, socioeconomic status, and any other category that can be used to define (arguably, to confine) a person.

Some see suicide as a choice, but this perspective implies, as Adina Wrobleski states, “that a suicidal person can reasonably look at alternatives and select among them. If [he or she] could rationally choose, it would not be suicide. Suicide happens when … no other choices are seen.”

Knowledge is power; one step we can take as a community to ease the stigma around suicide is to inform ourselves and each other about mental health.

Perhaps it is the misguided notion of choice that leads to suicide being pushed to the periphery of society, where uncomfortable and taboo subject matters reside. In some languages, such a word — a word to signify the act of killing oneself — does not exist, as if to not name the act is to take away its power or truth. We rarely hear the word “suicide” spoken, and when we do it’s in whispers or hushed conversation. This shroud of secrecy that veils suicide does nothing to prevent it from happening. Secrecy only serves to further compound grief for survivors by attaching feelings of shame or guilt as well as by closing off existing areas of communication and foreclosing upon areas of potential communication. We need to allow this word into and out of our mouths not only in prevention efforts but also in support of suicide survivors.

Suicide-related grief is unlike grief related to other losses because it is complicated by feelings of confusion, guilt, and more. Survivors never get over their loss but learn to get through it. While everyone grieves differently, the human grieving process often follows this healing pattern:

■ Shock, which is accompanied by disbelief and numbness.

■ Denial follows quickly, crying, “I don’t believe it,” or “It can’t be.”

■ Bargaining is your promise that “I’ll be so very good that maybe I can wake up and find that it isn’t so. I’ll do all the right things if only …”

■ Guilt is painful and hard to deal with. This is when one says, over and over, “If only I had …” or “If only I had not …” This is a normal feeling and ultimately it may be solved by stating, “I’m a human being and I gave the best and worst of me to my loved one and what he or she does with that is his or her responsibility.”

■ Anger is another big factor that seems to be necessary in order to face the reality of life and then to get beyond it. We must all heal in our own ways. Anger is a natural stage through which we must pass. Your anger at your deceased loved one may even make you feel guilty, or it may be because your own life continues whereas your loved one’s life is over.

■ Depression is a stage of grief that comes and goes. Knowing this, be prepared to give yourself time to heal. Resignation is a late stage. It comes when finally you accept the truth.

■ Finally, acceptance and hope. Understand that you will never be the same but your life can go on to find meaning and purpose.

If you are coping with suicide-related grief, the Sanford Strong Coalition, in partnership with Counseling Services, Inc., a partner agency of Maine Mental Health Partners (a division of Maine Health), urges you to call CSI at (207) 324-1500 or the Center for Grieving Children at (207) 775-5216. Likewise, the following sites are excellent resources for educational materials, including signs of suicidal thinking, ways to get help, and literature for suicide survivors: Suicide Survivor Resources (; Maine Suicide Prevention Program; and American Association of Suicidology (

Additionally, if you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, please know there are resources available to help you see through to tomorrow and beyond. You can call the Maine crisis hot line at 1-888-568-1112; call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255); or call or visit CSI at (207) 282-6136 and located at 474 Main Street in Springvale.

In the event of an emergency, always dial 9-1-1.

Suicide Prevention and Awareness in Sanford

“‘Open up … in a caring way’ The holidays might be difficult for some people you know. Reach out to them”

By Ellen W. Todd

Sanford News Writer

Thursday, December 19, 2013

SANFORD — The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people.

Most people can handle the demands of the season — shopping for gifts, decorating, holiday parties — and truly enjoy it.

But for some, the season can magnify feelings of isolation and loneliness. Images of happy families gathered around a Christmas tree or sitting at a table laden with holiday food and the constant barrage of cheerful holiday scenes can be painful for those who feel isolated and alone — whether they are or not. People who feel disconnected may withdraw and avoid social events, a response which will most likely make them feel more disconnected.

Nichole Ivey, the prevention coordinator with Strategies for a Stronger Sanford, urges people to be aware of the people around them — relatives, friends, and also neighbors and others they see regularly. It’s important to notice if someone seems “off,” Ivey said. And, if you’re concerned, it’s important to ask what may be difficult questions.

“Open up to the person in a caring way,” Ivey said in an interview on Monday. It’s important not to be critical, she said, and also to follow-up, even if the person denies having problems.

While it is important to be aware of signs of serious depression in the people around you, she emphasized the importance of self-care.

Experts advise a regimen of self-care during the holidays, which includes eating a healthy diet, maintaining a regular sleep pattern, and exercising, according to an article by Michael Kerr on

“As little as 30-minutes of cardiovascular exercise can provide an immediate mood boost similar to the effects of an antidepressant medication,” Kerr said.

“One of the best things a person can do, however, is to reach out to others despite how difficult it may seem,” the article notes.

“Mental health is a huge issue in the country,” Ivey said.

She pointed out that when someone has a life-threatening illness like cancer, we take an aggressive approach to treat it. Mental illness is still viewed as a “defect,” although mental illness can be just as debilitating and life-threatening.

Ivey noted that Maine’s annual suicide rate of 14 per 100,000 (roughly 160 people per year) is significantly higher than the overall suicide rate for the northeastern United States, which is 9.3 per 100,000 people. And, she pointed out, rural areas typically have higher rates of suicide.

There are good resources for those in the greater Sanford area struggling with mental health issues. Ivey said Counseling Services Inc., which has an office in Springvale, provides good support services that are available to anyone.

To inquire about CSI’s services or to make an appointment, call 324-1500 or 282-1500. CSI also has a crisis number — 282-6136 — or people can call 9-1-1 in an emergency situation.

If you or someone you know needs help, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Group’s suicide awareness message timely

Thursday, December 19, 2013 3:02 pm | Updated: 3:05 pm, Thu Dec 19, 2013.

By Faith Gillman

SANFORD – Suicide is not a topic many feel comfortable talking about. But for Nichole Ivey, the new prevention coordinator with Strategies for a Stronger Sanford, it is one that needs to be discussed – especially around the holidays, when stress levels can be elevated.

According to Strategies for a Stronger Sanford suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death for Maine residents, and on a national level suicide-related deaths outnumber those that result from motor vehicle crashes.

“It is an uncomfortable subject,” said Ivey. “Some see suicide as a choice; it is not understood. People who haven’t struggled with mental health issues or have never been to a dark place [in their life] might not be able to understand how it happens.”

Strategies for a Stronger Sanford sees suicide awareness and prevention as part of its larger goal to “engage the community in effective strategies to support their children, youth and families,” which includes strengthening the physical and emotional health of the greater Sanford community.

In addition to raising awareness about mental-health issues, Ivey will work with residents, parents, school staff, area churches, law enforcement and city officials to reduce risk factors for drug abuse in the community in her role as prevention coordinator. Ivey hopes to create connections and stronger community bonds for young people in the city.

“It does take a community to raise kids,” Ivey said. “We are taking a multi-faceted approach to developing an environment in which everyone can succeed.”

Strategies for a Stronger Sanford staffs the Sanford Strong Coalition, a group of residents, local organizations and businesses that oversee a number of programs in support of the community, including Drug Free Communities, an initiative promoting substance abuse prevention; Out-Of-School-Time Alliance, which develops opportunities for youth outside of school; and Our Schools Our Future, a program that fosters participation in shaping Sanford’s schools.

According to Strategies for a Stronger Sanford, “a community that fosters and appreciates strong connections among its citizens” can also work in the suicide prevention effort by “being aware of warning signs shown by those who may be struggling.”

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers a comprehensive list of warning signs that people who commit suicide often show before they take action, which include talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead; looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun; talking about a specific suicide plan; and feeling hopeless or having no reason to live. The foundation advises that the risks be taken seriously, as 50 to 75 percent of all people who attempt suicide tell someone about their intention.

Strategies for a Stronger Sanford recommends that anyone who is concerned for themselves or recognizes the warning signs in another should contact Counseling Services Inc. at (207) 324-1500 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or call 911 in the event of an emergency.

The Sanford Strong Coalition also urges community members to make self-care and care for others a priority, which includes self-awareness and reducing stress levels, during the holiday season.

2013 Maine Head Start Report

Head Start Report coverMaine Children’s Alliance releases report on Head Start in Maine.

Head Start provides early care and education, as well as health, nutrition, mental health, social and family support, to low-income families with children from prenatal to five years old. Head Start services are delivered in a variety of ways, for example: a home visitor meets with a child and the child’s family for 90 minutes each week; an infant is enrolled in Early Head Start either at a family child care home or at an early childhood center; a four year-old attends a collaborative partnership program of the local Head Start grantee and the public school; and three- and four year-old Head Start preschoolers attend a center in the community.

According to the 2011-2012 Program Information Report (PIR), Maine Head Start and Early Head Start had 3,762 funded enrollment slots, serving a total of 4,433 infants, toddlers and preschool children.

Download the report here.