International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, or sometimes known as “Survivor Day,” is a day that has become synonymous with hope, healing and connection for survivors of suicide loss around the world. Since 1999, the American Foundation for Suicide for Prevention has supported hundreds of events across the globe to support suicide loss survivors. The past two years have presented challenges for all of us because of the pandemic. But this did not stop our dedicated volunteers and staff from successfully hosting 221 remarkable events, both live and in-person, on November 20, 2021.
Each Survivor Day event is unique to the community it serves. No two are exactly alike, but each event includes a screening of an AFSP-produced documentary focused on the healing journey after suicide loss.
Survivor Day events, whether virtual or in-person, offer suicide loss survivors a chance to find hope, connection and heal as a community, and serve to break the isolation that suicide loss often brings. Events this year spanned from the Caribbean to the Congo. Each year, as participants share both their individual and collective experiences of both grief and healing, participants at Survivor Day events find a powerful connection to others who have also experienced this particular type of loss, and know what it feels like. Over 5,000 people registered for local events this year. At each of these events, people learned strategies for healing and self-care. For some, these events may have been the first time they truly realized they were not alone, as they joined large and small groups of other loss survivors. Some participants whose loss was longer ago may join Survivor Day events each year, as an annual opportunity to mark the occasion of their loss, and perhaps even signal to newer loss survivors that there is a way forward.
In addition to these events held in local communities, AFSP also hosts a national Facebook Live program for those unable to attend these local events in their community, and to supplement those events. This year, over 400 tuned in to watch to a panel of loss survivors discuss the AFSP-produced film Family Journeys: Healing and Hope after Suicide. The group discussed how their loss has changed over time, and how the COVID-19 pandemic affected their grief journey, as it did for so many. Over 1,800 commented and interacted with our live event, which continues to reach loss survivors on AFSP’s national Facebook page @AFSPnational.
For the second year, AFSP also hosted “Dia de Esperanza (Day of Hope)” on November 19, a program for the Latinx community. This event featuring suicide loss survivors and mental health professionals offered an increased understanding of suicide loss in the Latinx community, available resources, and a sense of connection for those attending.
Suicide loss survivors face a unique set of emotions, challenges, and experiences after their loss. Through events like International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, they are connected to both a caring community they may not have realized existed, as well as local and national resources including AFSP’s directory of suicide bereavement support groups, bereavement trained clinicians, and our newest resource, the Surviving Suicide Loss: Resource and Healing Guide.
We at AFSP are grateful for all the organizers and local volunteers for hosting, supporting, and providing a safe space for suicide loss survivors around the world. Without these volunteers, over 5,500 of loss survivors may not gain the insight and resources that are so valuable after a loss. Most importantly, Survivor Day events are not possible without the courage of loss survivors to often take the first step in a long healing journey. We are grateful for those who attended, and found support and healing through International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.