GREENFIELD — When Kim Wingo’s husband killed himself, she knew the shock and hurt she felt would stay with her forever, that she couldn’t get through it alone.
She attended a grief support group in Indianapolis until one day, she realized none of the 20-some people in her group had stood in her shoes.
Though they grieved the loss of loved ones to sickness or accidents, none understood the anger and unanswered questions created when a loved one takes their own life.
Mental Health Partners of Hancock County aims to fill that gap in support for people who have lost a friend or family member to suicide, said executive director Kim Hall. The “Survivors of Suicide” grief group, conducted 5 p.m. Thursdays at Mental Health Partners, 98 E. North St., Suite 204, Greenfield, will be a peer-led meeting, where open discussion about suicide and grief is encouraged, she said.
People of all ages who need a safe space to talk about their feelings surrounding the death of a loved one to suicide are invited to the new group, which has its first meeting 5 p.m. Aug. 3, Hall said.
The new support group is part of an effort by the organization to expand its reach serving people with mental health and addiction issues in Hancock County, said board secretary Laura Wilburn. The organization hosts already suicide prevention courses and connects individuals with treatment programs in the area, Wilburn said.
While other grief support groups are available through local churches and the hospital, Mental Health Partners’ new initiative is the only one of its kind in the county. It will allow those who are grieving to connect with others who have experienced a particularly painful loss, officials said.
Wilburn, who had a family member die by suicide, said the act leaves loved ones with unanswered questions, including “why did it happen?” and “could anything have been done?”
“If you lose someone to an accident or natural causes, you know the reason,” she said. “When someone commits suicide, you’re always left with that question.”
Wingo, a county resident, approached Mental Health Partners about the possibility of starting a support group for the friends and families of people who died by suicide after a similar group folded at a church she attended, she said.
It’s helpful to have a place to frankly talk about the feelings that arise after someone dies by their own hand, Wingo said.
“I was so angry at (my husband) for doing this,” she said. “Others in grief support groups have anger, but it’s at different sources. It was complicated trying to find common ground with people in general support groups.”
Community leaders applauded the addition of a specialized support group to options for county residents.
Kurt Vetters, veterans program director of Edelweiss Equine-Assisted Therapy Center, said local mental health resources could be particularly valuable to veterans as well, as the overburdened healthcare systems serving veterans can move slowly.
“Whatever resources we can get at the local level I welcome, especially in the area of mental health,” he said. “Local resources need to be deployed ASAP.”