Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. In the wake of these losses, families are left to grapple with questions and sort through various emotions.
Oftentimes, we forget about the children who are left in the wake. Processing these losses is important for their developmental health and for helping them to grieve in a way that is age appropriate. In 2018, the New York Life Foundation awarded Baystate Health Foundation a Grief Reach grant to support the Suicide Bereavement Program at the Baystate Health Family Advocacy Center. The New York Life Foundation created the Grief Reach program to help providers overcome barriers to bringing grief support services to youth not being serviced by existing bereavement programs.
Year one of the grant
In the first year of the grant, children received services from the Family Advocacy Center, with caregivers also utilizing the resources offered. The Family Advocacy team members have also expanded the reach of the program by bringing signage and displays to local organizations, including pediatricians’ offices, Department of Children and Families locations, military bases, and school districts. Additionally, members of the team participated in the Out of the Darkness walk in October, which raises awareness for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. They are also in the process of adding several creative arts events to support their patients and provide them with an additional outlet to process grief.
“The grant from the New York Life Foundation allows the Family Advocacy Center to provide a timely, therapeutic response to children who have experienced loss by suicide. Without administrative or financial barriers, we are able to focus on providing compassionate, evidence-based treatment to children and their caregivers. Additionally, we are able to increase awareness and provide consultation to community partners,” said Family Advocacy Center Behavioral Health Clinician Kerri Bergendahl.
The Family Advocacy Center is also developing programming in coordination with local artists to provide therapeutic art classes to children and families affected by suicides and continuing their outreach to local school districts to let them know that these resources are available.
New York Life Foundation has awarded more than 300 Grief Reach grants totaling more than $10 million since the program’s inception in 2011. The New York Life Foundation has been one of the leading funders of the childhood bereavement field, investing more than $45 million to date in support of grieving children and their families.