KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Saturday marked National Survivors of Suicide Loss Day and many who’ve lost a loved one in a tragic way united at Parkwest Medical Center for a time of fellowship.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control show nearly 46,000 people took their own lives in 2020. That’s about one death every 11 minutes.
“My son took his life in 2012 and life has not been the same since then,” Denise Meine-Graham said.
For suicide loss survivors, they take things day by day.
“I lost a cousin in her early 30s and she really meant a lot to me and I think about her many, many days,” Scott Payne said.
“March 13, 2019, I lost my brother to suicide, combat veteran, PTSD,” Matt Lawson said.
It can be difficult to talk about, but the group at Parkwest believes healthy conversations about suicide can provide comfort for those it affects most.
“The pain may still be there,” Meine-Graham said. “It’s something we need to learn to live with, but it softens over time as long as you’re willing to do the hard work of leaning into your grief and that looks different for every person.”
“It’s putting back the puzzle pieces together that have been shattered all over the table and it’s putting it all back together again. Sometimes that takes years to able to do that but we’re here to hope to help with that healing,” said Liz Clary, the vice president of Peninsula Behavioral Health.
Knoxville Police Department Officer Matt Lawson serves as a co-responder specializing in crisis intervention. He was inspired to join the unit after the death of his brother.
“Since the unit has been running, we’re up to about 2,000 calls going on two years so about 1,000 calls a year. My healing is a part of this co-response unit, part of coming to events like this, the suicide survivors day, and being able to speak and attempt to help somebody else through their struggles and their tragedy,” Lawson said.
“We are both survivors of suicide loss,” Scott Payne said, with his colleague Hailey Goad by his side. “But we also work with Contact Care Line which is the local provider for the 988 service. I remember a chat from last week was with an 11-year-old that was struggling but got help through chatting with one our crisis counselors.”
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 988 or the Tennessee statewide crisis line at 855-CRISIS-1 or text *T-N* to 741-741 for 24-hour help. The McNabb Center also has a crisis line that can be reached at 865-539-2409.