PIERRE – South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has proclaimed Nov.18, 2023 as Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, a day set aside for survivors of suicide loss to come together to find connection, understanding, and hope through their shared experience.
It is estimated that in 2022, more than 49,000 people died by suicide in the United States (CDC, 2023). In South Dakota, 192 people died by suicide in 2022 (DOH Vital Statistics, 2023). Each loss leaves family and friends grieving. Many who grieve also struggle to understand why suicide took the life of a loved one as they learn to cope with the loss. This struggle can be compounded by the stigma our culture places on suicide and mental illness. The resulting mix of complicated emotions can oftentimes cause people to not want to reach out for support or get the help they need.
This day, which is also designated by Congress in concert with many other national governments across the globe, serves as an opportune time for individuals to come together to remember their loved ones. Gatherings with others who share in the loss can provide benefit for one or more of the following reasons:
- You will find connection.
- You will find a safe, supportive space.
- You will learn that your feelings are normal.
- You will find hope.
- You will learn things to help you cope and heal.
- You will find resources.
- You will help others.
- It can bring you and your family closer.
- You will find inspiration.
- You will find comfort.
While these things may not bring your loved one back, finding a group of individuals who understands your pain and loss can be the first step towards healing. Coming together on International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day allows survivors a safe space to celebrate and remember their loved ones. For some, every day is a suicide loss day. If that is true for you, setting aside this one day might help you recognize that others are there to support and encourage you as they share in the sense of loss.
There are many ways that survivors can recognize International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day such as attending a local event where individuals can share their stories, connect with others, access resources, and spread awareness. Most importantly, this is a day where families can honor their loved one in creative ways like creating a memorial or participating in a remembrance activity. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call, text, or chat the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 and get connected to a trained mental health professional who can provide support and access to resources.
To learn how you can provide support and hope to those affected by suicide, please visit https://sdbehavioralhealth.gov/outreach-toolkits.
The South Dakota Department of Social Services is dedicated to strengthening families to foster health, wellbeing, and independence. For more information, please visit dss.sd.gov.