How to Help Survivors of Suicide

Supporting survivors of suicideBy Dana Hearn, Assistant Director, AHCCCS Division of Health Care Advocacy and Advancement

In life, we survive many things – natural disasters, plane crashes, abuse, disease… but SOS defines a different survival. Survivors of Suicide is specific to those left behind after a loved one commits suicide.

Experts have been conflicted about the average number of those left behind—estimating that approximately 25 survivors struggle with the grief and loss when someone takes their own life. This is baffling, as I see many people struggling with the loss of my brother. Friends from all over the country celebrate his life each year since he has been gone and we all still struggle every day to find peace and understanding with why he had to go.

Unlike many deaths that have understood causes, suicide leaves many “what-ifs” behind, unanswered questions, guilt, and the mystery that can surround a suicide. Cumulatively, they can take a toll on a survivor.

The search for answers can go on for a lifetime, sometimes without resolution.  Countless sleepless nights and endless thoughts and questions pile on top of the stigma associated with how their loved one left the world. People will often say very strange things if they say anything at all. Some of us lose friendships simply because people don’t know how to discuss the topic.  The risks of suicide are increased when a person has lost a loved one to suicide.


  • Acknowledging survivors is of the utmost importance with regards to awareness and prevention.
  • Keep the survivors you know in your thoughts as we enter the holiday season. Recognize that the feelings of loss may be amplified as families gather yet someone is missing.
  • When survivors unite and recognize each other’s unique pain it is a medicine like no other. If there is anyone you know who may have lost a loved one to suicide, feel free to get them connected to survivors of suicide support group in Arizona.  Empact runs great SOS programs.

AHCCCS manages Arizona’s state plan to end suicide, including the component geared to survivor services.

Other resources for survivors:

American Association of Suicidology: Helping Survivors of Suicide: What Can You Do?

Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Responding to Grief, Trauma and Distress After a Suicide

Join the AHCCCS Walk Team at the AFSP Out of Darkness Walk, Dec. 9, 2017


One thought on “How to Help Survivors of Suicide”

  1. Hello. I just wanted to let you all know about the upcoming La Fronterra-Empact 12th Annual Jeremyah Memorial 5K Walk/Run to Support Survivors of Suicide on Saturday, February 10, 2018.

    Schedule is below and the link to all of the details can be found at

    8:00 am Registration, Refreshments and Community Building
    8:45 am Survivor Memorial Ceremony
    9:30 am 5K Run begins
    9:40 am 5K Walk begins

    The Jeremyah Memorial Walk is generously supported by the Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition,
    Rhonda Bannard and Sandy Levitt in honor of their sister, Gloria Levitt.

    Kiwanis Park—Ruben Romero Corporate Ramada
    6111 South All American Way, Tempe, AZ 85282
    (Mill Avenue and All American Way)
    or Baseline from I-10

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