Jennifer Sikora, whose sister died 11 years ago, is a "survivor of suicide." The term refers to individuals who have lost friends or family members to suicide, which is now the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States.
As a board member of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention's Pittsburgh chapter, Ms. Sikora is helping to organize an event for other survivors to come together and discuss grief, loss and coping.
The International Survivors of Suicide Conference will be held Saturday at Fisher Hall in Duquesne University's School of Nursing. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., and the event runs until 2 p.m.
University of Pittsburgh researchers will discuss ways to manage complicated grief, which is a prolonged period of mourning where the impact of loss is felt "as raw and as real as when it first happened," Ms. Sikora said.
"Recovering from the loss of a suicide is unlike any other type of grief process, and it tends to be a very difficult grief process," she said. "The program is intended to reach out to those who have been affected by a loss from suicide and invite them to come together and grieve."
The event is one of a series to be held around the world Saturday to mark the 14th annual International Survivors of Suicide Day.
According to the foundation, four Americans commit suicide every hour and nearly 37,000 die from suicide each year.
Sam Lonich, former chairman of the psychology department at California University of Pennsylvania, will be discussing suicide bereavement and coping behavior. It will be followed by a survivor's story from a foundation board member.
The conference does not seek to answer why people commit suicide, but offers a day of healing. Ms. Sikora said it is an outlet for those who wish to share personal stories, but also for those who prefer to be observers.
"We're not there to force anybody to talk or share their stories. For many of these folks, it's too new and they're not ready to do that yet," Ms. Sikora said. "Sometimes you have to take some baby steps, but it is taking steps in the right direction."
For those who are unable to attend the conference, an online webcast will begin at 1 p.m. The registration form can be completed at www.afsp.org.
If you are in crisis or need support, please contact: re:solve Crisis Network, 1-888-7-YOU CAN, where counselors are available 24 hours a day every day.
Emily Petsko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1468.