While I believe there is a synchronicity to everything that happens, I realize that most of the time we don’t understand it while we’re standing in the thick of it. Such was the case when I met Cheryl, a fellow survivor who lost both her husband and son to suicide, who came to me with a proposal to help her create a comprehensive website on suicide and mental illness.
What I didn’t realize at the time, something I blame on my fog coming off the whirlwind of events at the American Association of Suicidology Conference in Portland where I had just become president of the organization, was that Cheryl had the same goal I’d been dreaming of accomplishing for several years. She wanted a site for the bereaved by suicide that would not just provide them hope, but also give them a place where they could learn about research discussing everything relating to suicide (bereavement, prevention, mental illness).
One of my goals had been to create such a site, something that I started but never had the resources to complete (www.bereavedbysuicide.com). While working on my doctorate, I had become aware of how little filters down from the research level to the general public. As a writer, I wondered if maybe my job was to connect the research to the people who wanted to know more about it. I had access to the researchers. And I had the suicide loss audience. It was time to bridge the two.
Cheryl gave me a list of things she wanted to do with the site. We entered our partnership to create what would become Suicide: Finding Hope fairly blindly although I had enough references (and enough information about me on Google) that she could see I had a track record of making initiatives happen. We both wanted to accomplish the same goal and that’s how we began to weave our common mission into the website.
As I started work on it, I reached out to as many researchers, clinicians, and bereaved people as I could, asking them to contribute pieces on various topics from prison suicide to mindfulness. We created a section on attempter survivors because very little exists to help them. People I barely knew said yes. A few didn’t have time, a few didn’t answer. But the ones who were the busiest, they were the ones who happily agreed to contribute.
In late July, I began to populate the site, adding what felt like endless pages of material. I learned a lot from the original pieces that were emailed me. Several people gave chapter excerpts and files of their research articles. Graduate students interested in postvention chipped in, including one who gathered a slew of pages of research connecting diagnosable disorders and suicide. New relationships began to form over this website. A few ideas came from it that will be brought to fruition.
On the last day of editing, I knew we had 200 pages, and I knew that we weren’t done. With digital media, a completed project is never truly a finished project. But when I went to compose an email to all the contributors, I added them up, realizing that 100 people had in some way contributed to the site, mostly writing original material. While I realized I knew a lot of people, I also knew I hadn’t asked everyone I knew to write for the site. Yet here we were with 100 people who took the time to give something of their work for a cause where all of us want to make a difference. It was one of those moments when I clearly saw that preventing suicide and helping the bereaved find hope is a collaborative effort.
Suicide: Finding Hope is at www.suicidefindinghope.com.
Michelle Linn-Gust, Ph.D., is an international author and speaker about finding hope after loss and change. She is the author of several books including Rocky Roads: The Journeys of Families through Suicide Grief and Ginger's Gift: Hope and Healing Through Dog Companionship. Her first book, based on the suicide of her younger sister Denise, Do They Have Bad Days in Heaven? Surviving the Suicide Loss of a Si..., inspired siblings around the world in their survival after a loved one’s suicide. She is the President of the American Association of Suicidology and lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Read more about Michelle at www.michellelinngust.com.