Survivors Helping Survivors

December 8, 2017 – Having lost her 32-year-old brother to suicide in 2013, Vanessa Bassett knows how healing it can be to connect survivors of suicide loss with others who’ve experienced the same type of loss. AFSP’s Survivor Outreach Program (SOP) does just that, connecting trained volunteers – the survivors of suicide loss themselves – to those who are grieving with an in-person visit, or by phone or video chat.

The program is available throughout the U.S., but under Bassett’s leadership, North Carolina’s SOP team is one of the most vibrant and full-fledged, with the largest group of volunteers. There were 1,406 deaths by suicide in North Carolina in 2016. As Bassett puts it, “With North Carolina being such a large state, the challenge isn’t just to supply need, but to spread the word that the program exists.”

Providing SafeTALK training to enhance the normal required training of all SOP volunteers, Bassett and her team have also worked tirelessly to promote the program to those most likely to be involved when a suicide death occurs, such as police officers, firefighters, and funeral home associates.

“Many times, one of these professionals is the first person the family sees after the loss of their loved one. Making sure these frontline professionals know about the program ensures that the people most in need of this resource will find out it’s available to them.”

The Survivor Outreach Program is now offered in 50 chapters across the United States, making visits from a trained volunteer who has lost someone to suicide available to anyone in the country via an in-person visit, by phone, or video chat.

More than 400 outreach visit requests were responded to in 2016, making this one of AFSP’s most rapidly expanding programs. 


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