The Survivor of Loss Support Program began in 1979 as the first service of its kind in Canada for those experiencing loss due to suicide. Trained and supervised lay counselors, survivors and staff have combined their skills and insights in an effort to create a safe, caring environment from which to explore the aftermath of suicide. The carefully selected responders are prepared to deal in a sensitive and realistic way with the emotional issues and problems left behind by suicide. They are aware of the full range of normal and complicated grief reactions that survivors may experience.

We offer peer-based face-to-face grief support for individuals and families dealing with suicide bereavement, fully accessible to all. Both individualized and group supports are offered. Our volunteers create a semi-structured, safe place in which survivors can identify, explore and clarify their thoughts and feelings.

By helping individuals define their situations and acknowledge their emotions, 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.

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

 

SUICIDE RESOURCE CENTRE:

The Suicide Resource Centre is 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

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VOLUNTEER

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

Those with the experience of suicide and/or homicide loss are now at a point where they can give support back to other survivors.  

Those without the experience of suicide and/or homicide loss bring a rich and diverse background in a variety of social support environments.

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COMMUNITY OUTREACH

We are also 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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Program Lead

Alex is our Survivor of Suicide Loss & Survivor of Homicide Loss Programs Lead for Distress Centres. A survivor of suicide loss himself, Alex has spent the last thirteen years building a community of support for those who have experienced a similar loss. He has spoken on a variety of topics pertaining to suicide and homicide loss as well as mental health for a wide range of highly acclaimed and grassroots organizations. As personable as he is knowledgeable, Alex is personally invested in helping each program member find their personal pathway forward.

 

 
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IMPACT Stories

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.
— A Survivor Suicide of Loss
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. 
— A Survivor Suicide of Loss
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.
— A Volunteer with the Survivor of Suicide Loss Program
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.
— A Survivor Suicide of Loss
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.
— A Survivor Suicide of Loss
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. 
— A Survivor Suicide of Loss
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.
— A Volunteer with the Survivor of Suicide Loss Program
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Outcomes & Outputs

Our outputs - comparable to other charities

Distress Centres is not aware of any other charities based in the GTA that are offering a comparable service at this time. Please contact us at 416-595-1716 to learn more about our unique programming.  
 

Our outputs - timeline

The programs run on an eight-week session basis which are scheduled throughout the year.
 

Our output - goals

Through varied helping outputs, our goal is to assist 450 members of our community annually through the menu of support options provided by the Survivor Support Program.
 

Our output - definitions and calculations

The outputs for the Survivor Support Program are defined as the number of individuals supported at an introductory support session; any additional individuals supported in face-to-face meetings; individuals supported in a group setting; and individuals (survivors, community members or professionals) offered resources and support by phone but not necessarily attending a face-to-face bereavement program.
 

Our outcomes - mentioned (matching comparables listed below)

  • Individuals attending face-to-face support sessions are offered eight meetings with two volunteer grief facilitators (at least one peer)
  • Individuals waiting for support receive a follow-up call after two weeks
  • When a follow-up call is made, all individuals are offered additional resources
  • All individuals attending the program are offered group supports
  • Individual sessions are offered in a timely manner (within one month)
  • Individuals attending sessions are satisfied with the results
  • Individuals happy with program format
  • Individual expectations met by program
  • Individuals felt the program has a lasting impact
     

Our outcomes - quantified

In 2016 suicide support participants decreased slightly while homicide support increased by 31%. The amount of service provided reflects both the number of community incidents in any given year and the extent of community outreach to referring agencies.

 

Further outcomes quantified

  • Increased number of requests for information.
  • Increased number of survivor contacts and participants into the program.
  • 86% of clients indicated increased understanding and improved coping. 
  • 93% of clients indicated satisfaction or better with support received. 
  • More than one-half of participants expressed interest in the volunteer program. 
  • All referral sources expressed positive feedback and interest in continuing to refer. 

 

Our outcomes - comparable to other charities

Distress Centres is not aware of any other charities based in the GTA that are offering a comparable service at this time. Please contact us at 416-595-1716 to learn more about our unique programming. 
 

    Our outcomes - definitions and calculations

    "Satisfaction" in our survey is defined as happy withformat; expectations met; and lasting impact. This was calculated as a percentage of the program users responding to the end-of-program evaluations.

    "Timeliness" is defined as the waiting period from the initial meeting totime of match with volunteer team and averaged across all program users for the year.

    "Group supports" are defined as the offer of a group to each programuser by letter.

    Interim support and resources are offered to each participant while they are waiting, starting two weeks into their wait.

     
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    goals

    1. Provide satisfactory and timely support to individuals and families living in the aftermath of a suicide or a homicide in a face-to-face, peer-based format.

    2. Provide seasonal group support and interim support and resources while program users are waiting.
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