New program will connect families affected by suicide with other suicide-loss survivors

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It’s devastating whenever a loved one is lost to suicide. A new Fresno County program will soon connect families impacted by this type of tragedy with someone else who knows exactly the pain they’re going through — to reduce the risk of losing more lives to suicide.

Fresno County’s Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors Team, or LOSS Team, will begin its lifesaving work in July. The program is part of the county’s Suicide Prevention Strategic Plan, which was published in September 2018.

This is how it works: when authorities determine a death is a suicide, the affected family will immediately connect with a LOSS Team — consisting of a suicide-loss survivor and a clinician. A family can also defer meeting with a team until they’re ready.

When Brandy Lidbeck was 10-years-old, her mother died by suicide.

“You kind of just wander around for years, kind of thinking in your head, ‘Man, what could I have done,'” Lidbeck recalled. “[Also thinking of] the guilt, shame, or whatever is associated with suicide.”

She’d continue to ask herself those questions for 13 years until she met another person affected by suicide.

“To be able to meet someone in my 20’s [who also lost a family member to suicide]…so impactful,” Lidbeck said.

Lidbeck, a program coordinator for Fresno Survivors of Suicide Loss, is aiming to re-create that connection for others. She’s one of the community partners helping jumpstart the LOSS Team in the county.

She said this program is very significant because people who lose a loved one to suicide are four-times more likely to die by suicide themselves.

“If we can get in there right away and start giving them support and resources — we can bring that risk down,” Lidbeck said. “Prevention is also taking care of people.”

The county’s suicide prevention plan is the result of the the work between the the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health and various community partners. To that end, they are all continuously improving on the plan as needed.

“It’s an active living plan and we’re meeting every month with those who helped us form it,” said Ahmad Bahrami, division manager of public behavioral health. “We are continuously discussing what are the next steps.”

Fresno County is one of seven counties with a suicide prevention plan in place. Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) currently has a bill in the legislature to make it a requirement that all counties create one. You can see that bill in full by clicking here.

You can see Fresno County’s plan in full by clicking here.

Suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

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