Support After Suicide: five friends set up Burnley fundraising group to help those who are grieving
and live on Freeview channel 276
Sharon Chapman, Vicky Stevenson, Trish Buck, Tracy Moran, and Pauline Smith have all lost someone close to suicide.
The shared tragedy inspired them to launch the group Support After Suicide in May to raise awareness of the impact of this type of bereavement and money to pay for specialist counselling, starting with a sponsored pub walk on Saturday from Hare & Hounds in Haggate at 11am.
The friends were shocked to learn how widely this hidden but heart-breaking issue impacts the community - and Sharon says some people had kept their experience secret for decades.
“Every time we have a conversation with someone, they know someone who died by suicide. The number of people I already knew who have since told me they have lost family members to it is massive.
"Nobody talked to me about it before. I can recall one conversation with someone who said it was 35 years ago, and they had counselling but kept it quiet."
Vicky lost her mum as a young child but did not know the cause of her death until she was 15, and Sharon's husband Mark took his life almost four years ago.
Those left behind often face shock, trauma, and complex emotions like guilt, anger, shame, rejection, sadness, and fear, and may have suicidal thoughts, according to the national charity, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS UK).
As Sharon added: "It ruins your life. I was self-employed and couldn’t go to work. I was broken and didn’t leave my house for several months. It was scary.
"Luckily, I had friends who are solicitors, doctors, and nurses and could help me access counselling and deal with the legal implications and financial matters. But not everyone is that lucky."
The stigma attached to suicide can generate misplaced associations of weakness, blame, shame, sin, or crime, isolating people and preventing them from seeking help, reveals SOBS UK.
"Suicide has been frowned upon [in society] and has many bad connotations, but it’s so sad, and I feel someone with [a mental illness] has a broken part of the body. We hope to educate people into thinking suicide is not shameful," said Sharon.
The group says specialist counselling is available at places like Pendleside Hospice and Church on the Street in Burnley. The friends are now organising a series of fundraisers this year to fund additional sessions to help more people, including a Three Peaks challenge and the production of a 2024 calendar next month. A band night in October, a charity ball in November, and a vintage fair in December will follow.
They then want to launch an information helpline and platform to signpost people to support and help them navigate numerous issues linked to suicide bereavement, including finances and practical concerns.
First, though, is the pub walk. Anyone can join, and you do not need to pre-register.
To donate, please visit https://gofund.me/8c6c3cda