Help for families of service members who died by suicide

NEW YORK -- Dana O'Brien, a veteran himself, says he initially felt ashamed and embarrassed after his grandson, a Marine, died by suicide in 2009.

"We decided to reach out, and through our youngest son, he recommended TAPS."

The Tragedy Assistant Program for Survivors, or TAPS, was formed in 1994 to provide support for those dealing with the death of a loved one in the military.

Now, O'Brien is a mentor for TAPS, and he offers support to survivors wrestling with the same emotions.

"Reach out for help now," says O'Brien. "There's a lot of help out there."

One study last year found every suicide impacts at least 135 other people.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that about 20 veterans die by suicide every day, but military culture can make it difficult for those struggling to reach out.

"There's a culture of 'suck it up, push through, don't get help,'" says Kim Ruocco, the Vice President of TAPS. "By the time that our service members are at the point where they're thinking about suicide, it's very difficult to help them."

Ruocco's husband, a Marine, died by suicide in 2005. She believes prevention is an essential part of the process, but she advocates for what TAPS calls post-vention.

Since 2011, as suicide rates in the US armed forces have dramatically increased, TAPS has created a program specific to those grieving the suicide loss of a military member.

"We don't get over grief. It's a life long journey," says Ruocco. "Teaching families how to grieve and then helping them move away from the cause of death, to how the person lived and served. Then, once they've gone through that process, they can find growth, meaning in their life, in honor of their loved one."

She says survivors must have a way to process what they are feeling and above all, they need to understand that suicide is not their fault.

Click here for more information on the Tragedy Assistant Program for Survivors (TAPS).
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