Living Links Providing assertive outreach support to the suicide bereaved.

The first Living Links group was set up in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary in May 2002, when a small group of local people got together in direct response to a suicide in the community. The event was tragic and cataclysmic for the people and there was a huge sense of inadequacy on the ground as to how to provide appropriate community support and a consequent sense of failure as a community.

In an effort to provide support to the suicide bereaved, personal contact was made with relatives and friends of the deceased, enquiring from them what their immediate requirements were following the suicide. Contacts were made with those who had been bereaved by suicide varying, in terms of time, from weeks to months to years following the death.

It was found that within the first twelve to fourteen months following the suicide, most people were basically in a state of confusion and experiencing multiple emotions such as anger, guilt, denial and even suicidal thoughts. Friction within the family unit was often a major problem and some families became totally dysfunctional. Families told of grief being at different levels within the family unit which lead to accusations of “you have forgotten very quickly” to “you were always the selfish one”. Circumstances such as this prevent conversation and prohibit the exploration of feelings.

Even though help was available by way of suicide support groups, people rarely availed of this service. Reasons given by the bereaved included a fear of having to express their feelings in a “public” domain. Sometimes they were fearful of meeting members from their own community. Quite a number of bereaved would travel great distances to maintain anonymity.

Taking all these various issues into account it was decided to start a suicide outreach support programme, one which would meet the requirements of the bereaved by suicide. With this in mind a group of people, who had experience in dealing with general bereavement, were approached and offered the opportunity to undertake a three-day training programme specifically designed towards suicide support. The training programme was comprised of formal lectures and workshops relating to the immediate needs of the bereaved, exploration of their grief and how they had dealt with that, the role of the Gardai and the Coroner’s Court. This in turn led to the formation of Living Links.