NEW YORK, Aug. 10, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Rita Schulte of Fairfax, Virginia, lost her husband, Mike Schulte, to suicide in November 2013. He was a dentist who had recently traveled to Haiti where he had done free dental work, as well as to Nicaragua to help build a house for an orphanage there. His death shocked Rita and left her confused and reeling. Even though she joined a weekly bereavement support group through her church, Rita still felt very alone in her grief. Her support group was mostly made up of people who had lost family members to cancer. It wasn't until she received a visit from Mary Anne Burke, a local volunteer with the Survivor Outreach Program who had also lost a family member to suicide, that Rita felt connected to a community of loss survivors and finally began to heal from her loss.
Run by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), the Survivor Outreach Program is a national network of volunteers who have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide and who receive training to visit others who have experienced a similar loss. These visits are free and available to the public. The program, which was first developed in 2007 and initially served only loss survivors in regions of the country where AFSP had local chapters, has now been expanded to include the whole country.
"Losing Mike made my whole life seem surreal," said Rita Schulte. "When someone you love dies by suicide, it's not like a regular death. It's a long painful journey. You can't go that journey alone. You really need people to walk alongside you. With the Survivor Outreach Program, I was able to talk to someone who had walked the same path I was starting. Mary Anne was able to help guide me on my healing journey."
The Survivor Outreach Program currently has 375 trained volunteers who are available on request for home, phone, video chat, or email visits throughout the United States. Visits last from an hour to two hours, depending on the person's need and the volunteer's availability. Generally, visits are requested by the newly bereaved, within two months of their suicide loss, or sometimes around the anniversary of a death.
"The impact of losing a loved one to suicide is different than other types of loss and is profoundly traumatic for most. The sooner people get support after a suicide, the better," said Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer of AFSP. "With our Survivor Outreach Program, people are able to get the help they need from a trained volunteer who has gone through a similar loss."
To learn more or request a visit from the Survivor Outreach Program: http://www.afsp.org/outreachprogram
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention leads the fight against suicide. We fund research, offer educational programs, advocate for public policy, and support those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, AFSP has 75 local chapters with programs and events nationwide. Review our Annual Report to learn more about AFSP's life-saving work. Join the national conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
SOURCE American Foundation for Suicide Prevention