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Suicide awareness helps with healing

Catherine North lost her brother seven years ago.

She is now not ashamed to say that he took his own life.

North, a volunteer on the Auburn Survivors of Suicide Board, hopes to eliminate the stigma surrounding suicide and raise awareness about the problem.

Suicide is going through the same transformation that AIDS once went through, North said. No one wanted to admit they had lost someone to AIDS, but now that it is out in the open, it has become a healing process free from embarrassment, she said.

The problem of suicide has become truly overwhelming, with one person dying every 17 minutes, and suicide staking its claim as the third-leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24, according to the group.

The fact that Washington state ranks 18th in the nation in deaths by suicide has prompted locals in Auburn, Olympia and Tacoma to form a support group to reach out and comfort the bereaved.

When somebody dies from suicide, the family suffers in a very unique way, North said. It is not harder than other types of death; it is just a different type of grief.

Many times, religious organizations, counselors and schools do not know where to send the bereaved, and the families are left to cope alone.

When the organization decided to become more than a support group and achieved nonprofit status, its first goal was to communicate with the churches, synagogues, therapists and schools, North said.

“If someone has been touched by suicide, we’re here as a resource,” said North. “We get people from all walks of life.”

It’s helpful for people who are newly bereaved to talk about how to get to the other side and overcome their grief, said North, and “we talk about getting through the hard times like holidays and anniversaries.”

Auburn Survivors of Suicide is entirely non-profit, with more than 20 volunteers serving on its board and working committee. The money raised at a yard sale this weekend (see sidebar) pays for postage and printing of brochures as well as the cost to make a presence at various gatherings.

“We like to bring suicide out into the open at many different events, such as the National Association for the Mentally Ill Walk,” North said.

Although the Survivors of Suicide group used to host its own walk in Federal Way, the group was consistently understaffed and decided to make year-round presentations as an alternative.

“It’s very healing for people to see suicide brought into the open,” said North. “I do this for my family and all of those left behind.”

Contact Lyndsey Wilson: lwilson@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Check it out

The Auburn SOS is holding a yard sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, Aug. 11, and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 28824 21st Ave. S., Federal Way. To learn more about the organization, visit www.auburnsos.com or call (253) 941-0826.

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