New program in Fresno County offers help to those who lost a loved one to suicide

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Katie Vargas remembers the overwhelming feeling of grief she felt when her 23-year-old brother took his life three years ago.

It took her six months to muster up the energy to ask for help and resources to cope with the gripping pain and guilt.

A peer support group at Hinds Hospice helped her navigate her new normal with those facing a similar circumstance.

"It's just been a great thing for me in my healing process seeing other survivors and being in the same room with others who understand and can relate with the deep sorrows that come along with the death," Vargas said.

Immediate resources didn't instantly arrive when her brother Jordan Magurean took his life. But soon, others facing those dark moments will have a timely response from a team of professionals and volunteers who understand and have experienced the same grief.

"So we're just going to go in and introduce ourselves and say I'm really sorry for your loss we're here with part of the LOSS team," said LOSS program director Brandy Lidbeck. "We want to offer you some support, some therapy, maybe something like, can I help you call your boss."

The Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors or LOSS team will begin serving Fresno County in July and phasing in services to eventually provide 24-hour day response teams.

Suicide remains a concern nationwide and locally. On average two or more people take their lives in Fresno County each week, usually leaving seven close family members or friends overwhelmed by grief. Then there's the coworkers, neighbors, classmates and more also impacted.

Katie said her brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenic tendencies when he was 19. When she lost him four years later, she was consumed by questions about whether she could've done more to prevent his death.

"After the death a lot of guilt on the whys and what-ifs of what could I have done," she said.

Through years of counseling and support, Katie has reached a place in her journey where she wants to help others as a LOSS volunteer now.

She's one of 25 who will be responding alongside clinicians to help families the moment they learn about the loss.

But, if you've experienced a loss by suicide in the past, there's also counseling available and funding to cover therapy sessions.

"If you are a survivor, whether it's been months, years, it's never too late to reach out and get that help, and the resources are here," Katie said.

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 273-8255.
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