New help for Vermonters who have lost loved ones to suicide

Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 5:24 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Last year marked a record for suicides in Vermont, and the latest data from the state shows this year trending even higher. Each death leaves behind family and friends grieving and wondering what more they could have done. Now, a new resource is available to help those struggling in the aftermath of suicide.

“We’re forever now missing a piece of our baby who now never gets to live out his dreams or grow up,” mom Desiree Hawkins said.

Hawkins is coping with the loss of her son, Noah, who died by suicide in November.

“It’s been very, very tragic for us,” she said. “A lot of emotions that come through ups and downs of his siblings struggling.”

It’s something Hawkins says neither she nor her family expected to experience. To deal with this, Hawkins says one of the only things that’s helped is seeking out support and help from both her community and professionals.

“Mental health affects everything and impacts everything. I just seek out to my children’s programs and I see that with my own therapist right now the best way to do it,” Hawkins said.

She says since Noah’s passing, she’s noticed something concerning begin to arise among those around her.

“I know of a few other children that since my child’s tragedy, have come forward with their own suicide ideations,” Hawkins said.

It’s this exact situation that the Howard Center’s newly expanded programming “postvention” is aiming to stomp out.

“So many people are familiar with suicide prevention, the work that happens in our community to prevent suicide, suicide. Postvention is the counterpart to that; it’s a response that can happen after a suicide death or other unexpected tragedy to help people who are impacted with their healing and recovery and also prevent further suicides,” said Charlotte McCorkel of the Howard Center.

These supports are provided by a team of Howard Center staffers who are trained and prepared to provide postvention to individuals, families and the community.

“The hope of these postvention resources is that people can understand what may be expected after someone loses someone to suicide, can talk about different components of grief. They can talk about healing, recovery,” McCorkel said.

Going forward, Hawkins says she hopes to see programs like the Howard Center’s postvention grow to reach communities throughout the state of Vermont. And says she hopes that by continuing to speak out and share the story of her son, she will be able to help others.

“Reach out to people if you’re feeling like you’re not safe by yourself. If you feel you’re ready to harm yourself,” she urged. “Whatever the situation is, make sure you reach out you’re not alone.”

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out to the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text VT to 741741. Click here for more resources.