HELENA — Lewis and Clark County are the first in Montana to establish a post-suicide support team according to the health department.
The Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors, or LOSS team, will provide family members and friends of someone lost to suicide with direct resources and two free grief counseling sessions.
"What happens is when there is a confirmed suicide, the coroner's office calls a special hotline for us, and it goes to whoever is on shift, and generally it's one of our clinicians, and that clinician calls another volunteer, they meet up, and they go to the home or scene of the suicide to provide direct support to the family in the immediate aftermath of the suicide," said Jess Hegstrom, Lewis and Clark County Suicide Prevention Coordinator.
With consent from the survivors, one of the volunteers will continue to follow up with the loved ones every few months.
Hegstrom says this is a massive step for Montana and the Lewis and Clark County Area.
"Be the light of hope in their darkest day, and this is our opportunity to be the one good thing on the worst day of their lives after they lost someone they cared about. We are simply here to say that we have been there too, and you won't always feel this way," said Hegstrom.
According to Lewis and Clark Public Health after someone commits suicide more than 147 people are exposed.
The six closest to the individual will most likely experience a major life disruption and suicide risk is three times higher for individuals who have experienced a loss from suicide.
The LOSS Team LCA is a subgroup of the Lewis and Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition and this new team will help those impacted by suicide heal and be surrounded by those who have also experienced the same hurt.
"It is something that is healing and brings survivors together where they can turn grief and pain into hope and action," said Hegstrom.
There are currently 20 volunteers for the local LOSS team, and there is a volunteer information session on Zoom on Saturday, May 7th, from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m.
If any community members want to volunteer, receive resources or learn about what is available for suicide loss survivors in Lewis and Clark County, they can contact Jess Hegstrom at 457-8970 or firstname.lastname@example.org