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Supporting Survivors of Suicide Loss

November 18 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day 

Losing someone to suicide creates a unique kind of grief, and this day provides an opportunity for loss survivors to find support and understanding from others with similar experiences. This November, UHS is sharing events and resources, both on and off campus, for those who have lost someone, as well as for those who hope to better support loss survivors. 

Supporting someone who has experienced a loss 

If you know someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, you may feel like you don’t know what to say or do. Maybe you are worried about saying the wrong thing or upsetting the survivor. Remember that first and foremost, a survivor is grieving and deserves support like anyone else who has experienced the loss of a loved one. In addition to grief, a loss survivor may also feel shame, anger, or guilt, and it is important to work to be empathetic, accepting, and patient in your support. 

Suicide is often a stigmatized subject, and loss survivors may feel isolated in their grief. Let them know that they are not alone and are not forgotten—and that their loved one is not forgotten. Use the loved one’s name. Ask questions about them. Check in on anniversaries, holidays, and birthdays, which may be difficult for survivors.  

Read advice from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on talking to survivors of suicide loss.  

Events to support survivors of suicide loss 

You are not alone. These events in the Madison community and beyond bring together survivors of suicide loss for connection and support—with others who understand their experience.  

Resources and support on and off campus 

On Campus 

  • Mental Health Services through UHS: University Health Services offers no-cost mental health services to all UW-Madison students, including individual counseling, group counseling, psychiatry services, and more.
  • UHS Grief Support Group This group is open to people who have lost a loved one (e.g., family member, friend) and helps participants express and explore emotions related to their experiences of bereavement. Group sessions combine sharing, discussion, support, and activities. Support groups start each semester, and it is recommended to contact UHS early in the semester to reserve a space and complete a pre-group orientation. Call 608-265-5600 (option 2). 
  • NAMI: NAMI is a national mental health organization dedicated to helping Americans affected by mental illness through education, advocacy, and support. The local UW-Madison chapter of NAMI offers support groups and resources. 
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – UW–Madison Chapter: This student organization aims to increase the awareness of mental illness and create a safe environment in which students know they are not alone and can ask for help. 

Off Campus 

If you’re thinking about suicide, or if you’re concerned for the wellbeing of someone you know, call the 24/7 UHS Crisis Line at 608-265-5600 (option 9), or call, text or chat with the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.