Losing a loved one to suicide is devastating. The grief that accompanies the loss is unique, complex and often isolating. As a result, those who lose a loved one to suicide are at a much higher risk for PTSD, depression, anxiety and other mental health challenges. Additionally, research shows that people who know someone who died by suicide in the past year are four times more likely to make a suicide attempt themselves.
Crisis Connections, one of the nation's oldest suicide prevention and crisis lines, understands how difficult it is to find solace after experiencing such a tragedy. If you have lost a loved one to suicide, you are a suicide survivor. CC Cares, Crisis Connections' outreach and emotional support program, helps suicide survivors heal. Depending on the individual’s circumstances, CC Cares serves as prevention, intervention, and/or postvention support – helping people heal from unimaginable loss, providing education about suicide and connecting people to needed local resources.
Caring for suicide survivors
CC Cares provides free mail and phone-based support to approximately 175 people per year across Washington state who are struggling after losing a loved one to suicide. Survivors can choose a comfort care package, which includes items recommended by suicide survivors. Options include a journal, pen, books on coping with suicide loss, a candle, chocolates, resources for suicide loss, a mug with various teas, and tissue packages. They can also opt for up to seven supportive phone sessions lasting 30 to 60 minutes with a trained grief companion mentor—a volunteer who has also experienced suicide loss.
Cambia Health Foundation recently sponsored the CC Care program to create 175 comfort care packages as well as hosted activities to support the staff members who make this vital work possible. The staff received chair massage pads for both the crisis phone room and the staff quiet room, workshops with internationally renowned trauma expert Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, and a wellness box for each of them containing self-care items such as a stress ball, journal, tea and more.
Eight Cambia Health Solutions employees also volunteered to help put together the care packages. “The effort from your employees truly saved our team time that they can now devote to suicide survivor outreach,” said Michelle McDaniel, CEO of Crisis Connections. “I’d like to express my gratitude to Cambia Health Foundation for providing support to people who experienced a traumatic, and often isolating, loss.”
“There are few resources available to suicide loss survivors nationally and locally,” said Laura Nelson, CC Cares coordinator. “It is only with the support of partners like Cambia that this much-needed work can continue and grow.”
National 988 suicide and crisis lifeline
Crisis Connections is one of the local suicide prevention crisis organizations that joined the 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline system, which launched in July 2022. To meet the increased call volume expected after the launch of 988, Crisis Connections hired and trained an additional 30 to 40 new staff members with financial support from Cambia Health Foundation.
The goal of Cambia Health Foundation's new strategic plan is to advance equity through whole-person health. Expanding access to behavioral health resources in underserved communities and building capacity across the health care workforce to address behavioral health needs, including training and diversifying the health care workforce, are two strategies to achieve this goal. Supporting the work of Crisis Connections aligns with these strategies. Our funding provided direct care and support for people going through the tragedy of losing a loved one to suicide and the resilience of the crisis line staff so they can keep showing up for people in need.