Survivors After Suicide Newsletter, Summer 2020

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SurvivorsAfterSuicide Your Path Toward Healing • Erasing the Stigma • Suicide is Preventable A Program of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services

Summer 2020

Outgoing President/CEO is a Suicide Loss/Attempt Survivor By Kim Kowsky

Dr. Kita S. Curry, Didi Hirsch’s Outgoing President/CEO, has been a regular member of the Saturday afternoon Survivors After Suicide potluck gatherings since their inception. Many are surprised to learn she is there, often with her husband, Peter, because they too have been bereaved by suicide. “We have lost four family members to suicide and attend the potlucks for the same reason other survivors participate— because we find comfort and strength in the community,” Dr. Curry said. Loss survivors who attend the twicea-year potlucks say they have enjoyed getting to know Dr. Curry over the years and that she has personally helped many members feel less alone in their grief. “Kita comes to our Survivor potlucks not ‘just’ as a CEO but to be with us and share her own stories about being a survivor,” noted Nina Gutin, PhD, who facilitates SAS support groups and is a member of the SAS Advisory Board. “She is living proof that we can transform our own pain into a passion to help others.” Twenty-six years after joining Didi Hirsch, Dr. Curry is retiring at the end of August. After a lengthy executive search conducted by the Didi Hirsch Board of Directors, Dr. Jonathan Goldfinger, MD,


President/CEO Dr. Kita S. Curry retires after 26 years

MPH, FAAP, was appointed as the new CEO and began on July 6. He is a renowned pediatrician with expertise in intergenerational trauma, integrated care and healthcare technologies. He has won numerous awards for his advocacy and public health research and serves on the California Office of the Surgeon General and Department of Health Care Services’ Trauma-Informed Primary Care Advisory Committee. Lyn Morris, LMFT, who has been with Didi Hirsch for 20 years and most recently served as Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations, has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer.

Didi Hirsch grew significantly during Dr. Curry’s tenure, tripling the size of its budget and growing the reach of its services. She has been a passionate advocate, serving as a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Steering Committee, and teaming up with Lyn Morris to secure ongoing funding for California’s members of the Lifeline network. Under her leadership, the agency adopted erasing stigma into its mission statement and created video and media campaigns to encourage others struggling with mental health challenges to reach out for help. As part of that effort, she spoke openly about her own experience with depression, suicidal loss and an attempt. Among her many achievements is the creation of a permanent stand-alone home for the agency’s 62-year-old Suicide Prevention Center in Century City. The Center is the first in the nation to take suicide out of the shadows with large exterior signs that boldly declare its purpose and help erase stigma. “I’m retiring as CEO, but I’m still part of Survivors After Suicide,” Dr. Curry said. “Survivors’ courageous willingness to help others by sharing their stories helped me grow personally and professionally.”

Join Our 22nd Alive & Running 5K Walk/Run VIRTUALLY! Separate but together, we will watch a kickoff ceremony on Sept. 13 before running or walking in our own neighborhoods.

• Register to get a T-shirt and memory bib. • Join the SAS team or create or renew your own. • Share your story and remember loved ones by participating in social media/online activities. A VIRTUAL EVENT

9.13.2020 9.13.2020

• Encourage friends and family to support your team for this worthwhile cause.

Help Raise Awareness and Funds for Suicide Prevention Donate or register at

Survivors After Suicide (SAS) helps people cope with their grief and pain, and move forward in their lives, in a positive and productive way.

Rick’s Corner How We’re Responding to Survivors’ Needs During COVID-19 During COVID-19, we have had to adapt to virtual rather than in-person groups and events. Through the magic of Zoom, verbal and visual connections with our community of survivors are providing hope and unwavering support, despite the distance. I hope we can meet in person for our Winter Potluck on December 5th. But if not, please use virtual technology to reach out. Join us via Zoom for our 8-Week and Drop-In Groups, and the Alive & Running 5K Walk/Run for Suicide Prevention—a virtual event— on September 13th. We could all use a little togetherness right now!

The day someone close to us dies by suicide, our lives are disrupted. We are lost, moving through the morass of grief, anger, pain, guilt or a host of other emotions. We may isolate ourselves because of our fear of judgment by family or community or feelings of guilt. Through the years, on the recurrence of that tragic day, we may still feel isolated to varying degrees. Many of us have connected with other survivors through the Suicide Bereavement Support Groups, the Drop-In Groups, Potlucks and the Alive & Running 5K for Suicide Prevention. Being together helps. Today, we are experiencing another type of isolation due to COVID-19 which may exacerbate our sense of loss. When we’re not in the midst of a pandemic, the need for connection with others who understand the pain can occur with simple gestures. Sometimes it’s the touch of a hand on our shoulder. Other times it’s being enveloped in the arms of someone who empathizes with our needs. Most importantly, it’s seeing in the eyes of another a reflection of our selves and the pain and grief we share.

Peace and love,


Rick Mogil Program Director Didi Hirsch Suicide Bereavement Services P.S. For more information on groups in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, please call 424-362-2912 and for Orange County residents, 714-547-0885.

Resources for Survivors and Suicide Prevention CRISIS AND HELP LINES



National Suicide Prevention Lifeline/ Didi Hirsch Suicide Crisis Line 24/7 English and Spanish (800) 273-TALK or (800) 273-8255

Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center 10277 W. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90067 (424) 362-2900

National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Support for Families (800) 950-6264

Disaster Distress Helpline 24/7 English and Spanish (800) 985-5990

Bereavement Support Groups (Survivors After Suicide) Support Groups for Teens: (424) 362-2911 Support Groups for Adults: LA/Ventura (424) 362-2912 Orange (Eng/Span) (714) 547-0885

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

24/7 Lifeline/Didi Hirsch Crisis Chat or TEEN LINE Staffed by Teens 6-10 pm; Other Hours by Didi Hirsch. (800) TLC-TEEN, (800) 952-8336 or (310) 855-HOPE Didi Hirsch Korean Crisis Line (877) 727-4747 4:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. daily Trevor Helpline (LGBTQ) (800) 850-8078

American Association of Suicidology (202) 237-2280 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (888) 333-2280 Suicide Prevention Resource Center (877) GET-SPRC or (877) 438-7772 or thespark


LA Warmline 855-952-9276 7 days a week from 10pm to 6am Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health ACCESS Line 800-854-7771, 24/7


Editor: Randy Levin-Cohen Editorial Board: Kim Kowsky, Rick Mogil, Patricia Speelman Design: Joey Buda

Summer Potluck Feeds the Soul Remotely By Randy Levin-Cohen

Didi Hirsch’s first-ever Zoom Summer Potluck for suicide loss survivors on July 25 welcomed 50 participants (and a cuddly dog) into their homes, backyards and dreamscapes for a virtual but meaningful show of community. “What matters most is being here, listening, understanding and supporting each other unequivocally,” said Rick Mogil, Program Director of Didi Hirsch Suicide Bereavement Services. The session opened with Dr. Kita Curry sharing how much the groups have meant to her over the last 26 years. After several staff and survivors paid

Potluck held “virtually” this year

tribute to Dr. Curry for her leadership, some members expressed their feelings of grief and physical isolation during COVID-19. Afterwards, the larger group

divided into smaller “rooms” with moderators so participants felt more comfortable talking intimately. Veteran and new survivors shared their stories, finding comfort and strength in their connection with other survivors. The closing ceremony reunited the larger group where everyone raised a photo of the loved ones they wished to remember. While Rick lit the memorial candle, the “room” remained silent as everyone viewed the beautiful faces of those they had lost. Distances were magically bridged as this family of survivors held each other in a virtual embrace.

Finding Support Virtually By Kate Lyon Osher When COVID-19 and the shelter-inplace orders hit, I worried how isolation would impact those who rely on support groups to get them through the day. As a member of the Survivors After Suicide community, I knew Didi Hirsch would find a way to help those in need and was grateful when they asked me to cofacilitate their virtual 8-week SAS support group. But I had concerns about whether the raw and vulnerable intimacy of an inperson experience could translate to an online space. The connections made in the group are of utmost importance. You can feel

the emotion in the room. You can pass tissues and offer a hug when needed. Could people receive the support they desperately need via virtual meeting? I was nervous that people wouldn’t want to open up when staring at a Brady Bunch box of faces. I needn’t have worried. The focus was on healing not where the meeting was held. And, in the 8 weeks I co-facilitated my first virtual group, there was an abundance of healing. I discovered that sometimes the meeting felt even more relaxed. I wore PJ bottoms and slippers, while participants tuned in from their

A Grief Journey Documented Orange County survivors used sand art to express how their grief has changed over time. After deciding what emotion each color represented, they layered the colored sand into containers to express their loss and healing journey and then shared the results with the group. The message on the bottle reads: Grief is the last act of love we have to give to those we loved. Where there is deep grief, there was great love.


bed or their favorite cozy chair. They came ready to listen and share just like they would at an in-person group. My heart grew three sizes each and every week - just like it does when we meet in person. There were memories, tears, and yes, laughter along with frustrating technical challenges. But we were always able to troubleshoot and resume where we left off. Most importantly, I know the group made a difference to everyone who participated. If you are in need of support, please know that it is available at Didi Hirsch and elsewhere, even during uncertain times.

Help for Teens Grieving A Suicide Death Now offering virtual groups! For more information call 424-362-2911 or Help us connect teens to 8-week support groups where they can talk with peers about their shared experience and learn coping skills to deal with loss. The groups are a project of the Everychild Suicide Prevention Program, which expanded crisis intervention and education services to youth under age 24 and their families.




4760 South Sepulveda Boulevard Culver City, California 90230



9.13.2020 9.13.2020 Virtual Event: Walk or run safely in your neighborhood! A VIRTUAL EVENT


Upcoming Events 22nd Alive & Running Virtual 5K Sunday, September 13, 2020

International Survivors of a Suicide Loss Day* Saturday, November 21, 2020 Visit for times and locations of events in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange Counties

SAS Winter Potluck* Saturday, December 5, 2020 6:00-8:30 p.m. Location: Virtual or in-person TBD *Dates and times may be subject to change. For questions, contact Rick Mogil at

Survivors After Suicide Group Meetings Eight-Week Groups Meet Virtually Groups meet virtually once a week for 90 minutes. All LA County survivors are welcome to join any LA County group. Santa Ana groups are available to all survivors who reside in Orange County. Please call to be placed in a group. Los Angeles/Ventura counties: (424) 362-2912 or Orange County: (714) 547-0885

Drop-In Groups Everyone who has completed an eight-week support group is invited to attend free monthly meetings, also meeting virtually. San Gabriel Valley Meets 3rd Sunday of each month Sep 20, Oct 18, Nov 15, Dec 20 10:00—11:30 a.m.

Santa Ana—English and Spanish Meets 1st Wednesday of each month Sep 1, Oct 7, Nov 4, Dec 2 6:00—7:30 p.m.

San Fernando Valley Meets 2nd Saturday of each month Sep 12, Oct 10, Nov 14, Dec 12 11:30 a.m.—1:00 p.m.

South Bay Meets 2nd Sunday of each month Sep 20, Oct 18, Nov 15, Dec 20 11:00 a.m.—12:30 p.m.

West Los Angeles Meets every Saturday from 10 a.m.—11:30 a.m.

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