Survivors of Suicide Loss support group to form

Survivors of Suicide Loss support group to form

Survivors of Suicide Loss support group in Tuscarawas County is based on support groups formed in Stark and Carroll counties.


A new support group for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide is forming in Tuscarawas County. Survivors of Suicide Loss support group in Tuscarawas County is based on support groups formed in Stark and Carroll counties.

“Since the pandemic began, there have been support groups for suicide loss in Carroll and Tuscarawas counties,” said Veronica Spidell, manager of community services at Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Tuscarawas and Carroll Counties. “We had survivors reach out to us to say there was a need for a specific and separate group for each.

“Light After Loss suicide survivor support began in Stark County. And we knew Carroll and Tuscarawas counties weren’t being fully served. We held a meet and greet at the Carrollton Library, where Light and Loss director and founder Shannon Ortiz came and spoke. Both professional counselors and survivors of suicide loss were there, and we sat together informally and talked and just asked questions. We asked everyone to give us a good day of the week and time to meet, and within a month, we were having support group meetings. There are five to 10 people who attend those meetings now.”

As soon as a survivor reaches out to Light After Loss, Spidell said, they are mailed a survivor’s package. “It’s a book to help with grief, candles and other things to provide some assistance with coping. They get another package on the first anniversary of their loss.”

To help the Carroll County program be as successful as possible, Spidell said fliers were shared with area funeral homes, the coroner’s office and social service agencies. As the group got together and shared their stories, survivors began to reach out to each other for support.

“It’s a community you don’t want to find yourself a part of,” Spidell said, “and survivors do tend to reach out to one another in their grief.”

With the Carroll County support group providing help to many, it was time to establish a more formal support group for Tuscarawas County. “It is being shifted to Light After Loss, who are forming the SOS group,” Spidell said. “They are experts. We asked Shannon Ortiz if she would be willing to help here, and she was happy to do that.”

Another meet and greet, open to the public, will be held April 6 at 6 p.m. at the ADAMHS Board office at 119 Garland Drive SW in New Philadelphia. “After that meeting,” Spidell said, “we will quickly arrive at a date and time to have meetings every month. Then we will get the information to local agencies.”

The need to support survivors of suicide loss in Tuscarawas County is serious, Spidell said. “There has been a significant jump in the number of suicides in the past five years. In 2018 there were nine suicides in Tuscarawas County. In 2022 there were 17. We tend to focus our attention on suicide prevention in schools, which is important. But this rise in the numbers reflects older people. Of the 61 total suicides since 2018, 33 were aged 50 or older.”

Spidell said an effort to get greater suicide-prevention support for older people has been an ongoing process.

Light After Loss founder Ortiz said she began the support agency after the devastating loss of her husband to suicide in 2016.

“I’m a licensed clinical counselor and was already heavily involved in suicide prevention in the community. When this happened, I learned a lot I didn’t know, things you can’t get from a book. I learned there’s not a lot of support for survivors of suicide loss. I knew who to call and how to call and get help. Many people have difficulty navigating that system,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said the April 6 meet and greet will be a chance for people to come and see who the facilitators will be and get more comfortable with joining the support group. “It’s a chance for Tuscarawas County to get to know us.”

“We are working now to gather the data we need,” Spidell said. “Why is this older group so heavily affected? What do we need to know? How can we best help? We need a lot of information going forward. A strategic plan will grow out of the data collection and current support efforts strengthened.”

Learn more about SOS Loss support group by emailing

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