The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

July 28, 2013

Healing, friendship in support

Suicide survivors support group leans on each other

CHICAGO — They come together every month now. Three young women, who arrive at the restaurant one by one, and sit at a table in a corner. A waitress pours water and takes their order. And then the women begin to talk about their fathers.

“I miss him so much,” says one woman.

Her two friends know exactly what she means.

Lindsay Van Sickle, Becky Olson and Jessica Hutchison all lost their fathers to suicide. Two years ago they met in an eight-week support group and, through the fog of grief, slowly became friends.

All were in their mid- to late 20s, newly married and beginning to start their adult lives. After the deaths of their fathers, each struggled with how to move on.

And so they began to meet, every few weeks. Over burgers or salads, they discussed everything, from work to celebrity gossip. But mostly, they spoke about longings and losses that were large and small, after their fathers committed suicide.

Who will remind me to change the oil in my car?

Who will call me, when I’m traveling, to make sure my plane landed safely?

How is it possible that my father is really gone?

This month, the three women launched a blog, OurSideofSuicide.com, on which they share their stories and try to offer others hope.

“We’ve found so much support and commonality with one another,” Olson said. “We want others to know that they are not alone.”

Their effort comes at a time when the suicide rates among middle-aged Americans are on the rise. Over the last decade, the rate among people ages 35 to 64 rose by nearly 30 percent. Among men in their 50s, the rate jumped by nearly 50 percent. While the reasons remain unclear, experts suspect the economic recession, along with the responsibilities of caring for aging parents and the increasing availability of prescription painkillers, have produced a perfect storm that has left a generation particularly vulnerable.

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