The Survivor Support Program began in 1979 as the first service of its kind in Canada for those experiencing loss due to suicide or homicide. We offer peer-based face-to-face grief support for individuals and families dealing with suicide and homicide bereavement. Our trained volunteers create a semi-structured, safe place in which survivors can identify, explore and clarify their thoughts and feelings.

Our carefully selected volunteer grief facilitators are highly trained and prepared to deal in a sensitive and realistic way with the emotional issues and problems left behind by suicide. Including the full range of normal and complicated grief reactions that survivors may experience. The support process leads survivors to a consideration of what normal grieving is under these circumstances, the meaning of a sudden violent death, and a sense of how they can manage.

Our Suicide Loss and Homicide Loss Survivor Support Program sessions continue to see a significant increase in participation year over year. In 2017, our Traumatic Loss Survivor Support Program saw a +38% increase in group session participation.

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There is no universal or appropriate way to cope with a traumatic loss; however, sharing feelings and thoughts, facts and fears, helps to provide a personalized sense of reason and redefinition of normalcy in a situation without any rules.

Our Suicide Loss Survivor Support Program began in 1979 as the first service of its kind in Canada for those experiencing loss due to suicide.

Our professionally developed traumatic loss support program is a safe space in which survivors of suicide loss can identify/explore/clarify their thoughts as well as feelings and begin to navigate the aftermath of suicide loss with peer-to-peer support. Highly-trained grief facilitators (many of which are survivors of suicide loss or homicide loss themselves) and our professional staff have come together to create a safe, caring and non-judgmental environment that empowers program participants with pathways forward.

As a result of the unique nature of traumatic loss bereavement, and the scientifically proven value of connection and peer support, our Suicide Loss Survivor Support Program offers both individualized and group meetings.

 

Today (and every day) in Canada approximately 11 people will end their own life by suicide. In addition, approximately 210 others will attempt to end their lives by suicide today. For each death by suicide. It has been estimated that the lives of 7-10 bereaved ‘Survivors” are profoundly affected. This means that today in Canada 77-110 people will become newly bereaved by suicide.

In Canada suicide is one of the top ten leading causes of death, with rates increasing over the past 60 years. In 2012, suicide is ranked as the 9th leading cause of death in Canada. According to Statistics Canada there were 3,926 suicides in the year 2012. Males were three times more likely to die by suicide than females. This much higher rate of suicide for men compared to women has been a trend consistent over time in Canada. Although men are more likely to die by suicide, females are 3-4 times more likely to attempt to end their lives. In addition, women are hospitalized 1.5 times more often than males for suicide related behaviors. This discrepancy may be due to the fact that females tend to use less immediately lethal methods.

Based on data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 14.7% of Canadians have thought about suicide and 3.5% have attempted suicide in their lifetime.

 
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The Survivor Support Program gave me a safe space to grieve. The one-on-one program allowed me dedicated time to express my thoughts and feelings in a truly judgment-free space. Although I have a strong support network, sometimes there were “things” that I could not say without potentially hurting someone else. The one-on-one sessions gave me an opportunity to vent these things in a caring and bias-free environment. Being able to express these thoughts aloud meant that I was able to reflect upon and work through my grief.
— Suicide Loss Survivor
One of the greatest things that happened was a co-worker (who had lost his brother to suicide) told me about this amazing program that his family attended.  I decided to call the group right away.  The first step was a one-on-one meeting.  That initial meeting was hard.  At that point, I hadn’t retold the events of my father’s death.  For me, telling the story was the hardest part of each phase of the program.  Each time, I made it through.
— Suicide Loss Survivor
The group sessions gave me a community of people in which I did not have to internally anticipate their reactions to things I said because most of them were thinking the same thing. Suicide is unlike any other cause of death. For a survivor, at times the emotions surrounding it are indescribable; my group experience meant that I never had to explain or justify my emotions because they were already understood. 
— Suicide Loss Survivor
My first exposure to the Survivor Support Program was as a participant. I decided to volunteer as a way to honour the memory of my brother and as a way to help others cope with their loss. The grief from suicide is painful and overwhelming, and I continue to be amazed at the healing effects of sharing and support that this program offers.
— Suicide Loss Survivor Support Program Volunteer Grief Facilitator
The first step in this program, for me, was admitting that I needed it.  After my father completed suicide, I was lost in my mind and felt like there was no way I was ever going to see through to the other side.  It was all I could think about.  It seemed like there would never be a moment when I would find some sort of comfort or happiness.
— Suicide Loss Survivor
The Survivor Support Program supported me during the most devastating and confusing time in my life.  Years after participating in the program, I felt a desire to give back.  I volunteer with the program because sharing my story helped me survive at a time when I did not want to.  Being heard and understood saved my life.
— Suicide Loss Survivor Support Program Volunteer Grief Facilitator
Meeting with the other survivors was easily the worst and best part of the entire experience.  The worst part was that I had to tell all these strangers about what had happened, and in turn hear what had happened to them.  But the best part was knowing I was not alone. The group meetings were emotionally draining, but it was something that I needed.  Most importantly, I learned how to talk about it.  I learned that it is okay to ask for help.  That it’s okay to cry.  At the end of the day, the group didn’t change the pain or magically take it away.  I still had a hole in my heart when it was over, and I still didn’t feel like myself.  What I did have were the tools to help deal with it.  Nothing will ever change what happened to my father, but I am thankful that I had the Survivor Support Program to turn to in my time of distress. 
— Suicide Loss Survivor
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PROGRAM LEAD

A suicide loss survivor himself, Alex has spent the last fourteen years building a community of support for those who have experienced a similar loss.

He has spoken on a plethora of topics pertaining to traumatic loss inclusive of but not limited to suicide loss and homicide loss as well as mental health for a wide range of highly acclaimed and grassroots organizations. And also lends his expertise, resources and support via in-person, online and telephone to individuals, groups and organizations across North America who are navigating traumatic loss.

As personable as he is knowledgeable, Alex is personally invested in helping each program participant find their personal pathway forward.

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For more information or self-referral to the program contact Alex at 416-595-1716 or by email Alex@torontodistresscentre.com.

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become a VOLUNTEER grief facilitator

Our volunteer grief facilitators consist of survivors and non-survivors who receive extensive screening and training.

Many have experience of suicide and/or homicide loss are now at a point where they can give support back to other survivors. Those with the experience of suicide and/or homicide loss bring a rich and diverse background in a variety of social support environments.

Please note in this role you will support both homicide and suicide loss survivors.

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COMMUNITY OUTREACH

We are interested in supporting other community groups, both professional and non-professional, that wish to learn more about the unique problems faced by survivors of sudden, violent death.

Our team offers information, skills training, speakers and consultation on request. We provide information packages and custom workshops.

On-site facilitation is also available to agencies, residents and other groups in the immediate aftermath of a loss by suicide or homicide.

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Distress Centres suicide RESOURCE CENTRE:

Distress Centres Headquarters houses a physical & digital Suicide Resource Centre that is openly available to students, caregivers, survivors and volunteers wanting more information about this special trauma.  A lending library is available in person for requesting and there are many articles and resources available for free on our website in the suicide prevention, suicide intervention, and suicide postvention sections. 

 

Additional Resources

 
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For more information on this program's services or for self-referral please connect with suicidelosssurvivorsupport@torontodistresscentre.com

For donation or funding information with regards to this program please connect with donations@torontodistresscentre.com