Last year we published a video interview with David, a Washington participant in a mental health peer support group. The coronavirus outbreak in Beijing has meant that much of our peer support has been remote over the last few weeks, but CandleX is still committed to providing psychosocial support for Beijing’s English-speaking community.
Here’s an interview with Emily, who has just started facilitating a peer support group for those bereaved by suicide in her hometown.
If you are affected by any of the issues in this article or if you are in a crisis, tap on “Read more…” at the bottom of the page to see our Crisis Support resources.
Hi Emily. Can you introduce yourself?
I’m a health professional and a mother of four grown children from England!
How did you get involved with the mental health support group?
More than a decade ago, my partner and the father of my children took his own life after a long struggle with mental illness. It was an incredibly difficult time for me. The first two years after his death, I was so busy arranging everything that needed to be done, like the funeral, finances, and getting my life back in order, that I didn’t have time to think about my own mental health. But after two years, I finally started to deal with the situation mentally. This was one of the lowest times of my life.
I heard about a mental health support group, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide, through work. There wasn’t a group meeting in my hometown, but I drove for about an hour and a half to attend the first meeting. I have to say, the experience was really transformative for me.
Why was going to the support group so useful?
Hearing everyone else’s stories really put mine in perspective. In addition, having the space to discuss what had happened without worrying about what other people would think was really freeing. Most of the people there had experienced similar feelings to me – I no longer felt alone. It felt like taking a breath of fresh air to find out that it wasn’t just me in that situation, feeling totally isolated and ashamed.
How did you become the coordinator of your local suicide bereavement support group?
Together with the regional coordinators of the service, it was decided that it was time for my local town to get its own group. I knew there was a great need for this kind of thing in my hometown, and when the position came up, I decided that I could do it.
What has it been like so far?
It’s incredibly moving listening to the stories of the people that have come to the meeting. In the last session around 15 people turned up. Even though it is a challenging role, I feel proud that I am giving something back to the community that helped me so much a decade ago. However, it definitely takes a lot of emotional labor to do this role. I am not worried about my own mental health, but I am definitely aware of the risks to me too.
Sign up to our mental health peer support group by following CandleX on Wechat.