Supporting Survivors of Loss
Suicide loss is a heartbreaking and difficult experience that affects thousands of people each year. It’s what spurred on the creation of AFSP, when several families who had lost loved ones connected with researchers eager to learn more about this leading cause of death — beginning a vital conversation that would lead to increased support for countless survivors of suicide loss in the years that followed.
Through events and programs like International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day and Healing Conversations, AFSP provides care and understanding for those managing the complexity of this unique type of loss, lighting the way forward to a place of health and acceptance.
International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day
Since 1999, AFSP has supported hundreds of events each year across the globe for International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, also known as Survivor Day, taking place on the Saturday before American Thanksgiving. The day is an opportunity for those who have lost loved ones to suicide to come together, gain greater perspective and understanding, and discover practical coping strategies that others have used before them to healthily process and contend with their loss.
Each Survivor Day event features a screening of an AFSP-produced documentary on suicide loss, sparking both conversation and hope for those attending. In addition to in-person events, in recent years AFSP has also hosted two national virtual events featuring panel conversations: "Survivor Day Live, and Día de Esperanza (Day of Hope), a program that offers support specifically for Hispanic and Latinx communities that have been affected by suicide loss. These programs had record turnouts this year, with a 4x and 11x increase in attendance, respectively.
Comments from this year’s Survivor Day attendees:
“I just lost my mother to suicide. I am going through a traumatic experience and severe depression. This day was so helpful to me, with all the resources available.”
“Survivor Day is about connection, hope and healing!”
“International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day means the world to me because it reminds me that I am not alone, and it gives me the opportunity to honor my son.”
Long-Term Survivors of Suicide Loss Summit
In July 2022, AFSP hosted the Long-Term Survivors of Suicide Loss Summit, the only conference of its kind, focused specifically on the experience of those whose loss was five years ago or more. Featuring workshops, expert-led discussions, and social activities exploring how grief evolves over time, the unique three-day event helps long-term loss survivors further understand their loss as a part of their life’s journey.
Joining the conference to give a special keynote address was Zak Williams, an actor, entrepreneur and mental health advocate, and the eldest son of Robin Williams, who died by suicide in 2014.
The event, which was the second time AFSP has held this conference, focused on the theme of connection, offering attendees a safe space to be together and share their experiences, both difficult and inspiring.
Providing a Path Toward Healing
AFSP supports additional growth for healing after a loss through programs and initiatives including:
- Surviving a Suicide Loss: Resource and Healing Guide, also known as “the blue book,” provides support, resources, and tools to foster hope and healing for suicide loss survivors. It contains practical information as well as stories from experts and fellow loss survivors. The updated guide is available in English and in Spanish
- The Support Group Facilitator Training Program, which trains participants on how best to create and facilitate support groups
- Healing Conversations, a one-time, in-person or virtual visit with trained AFSP volunteers who have themselves experienced a suicide loss and can point the way forward from their own personal experience