One local outreach program for suicide survivors is a model for other communities around the nation, including Clark County.
The Logan County LOSS program, or Local Outreach to Survivors of Suicide, has grown quickly, according to Logan-Champaign County Suicide and Prevention Coalition Chairwoman Molly Smith.
“You can actually save lives with a program like this, and as a coroner we don’t save lives,” Logan County Coroner Michael Failor said.
Survivors of suicide are about nine times more likely to commit suicide than others, Failor said.
Each time there is a suicide in Logan County, Failor calls the LOSS team. It sends out survivors of suicide — people who have had a loved one commit suicide — in order to comfort the family in whatever capacity.
“When they look across the room and see the person who has also lost their son, spouse or close friend, that is who they are going to connect with,” Smith said.
“I let them know its OK to grieve. I let them know it is OK to cry. I let them know whatever I can to help them through,” Jeff Cooper said.
Cooper’s son Luke took his own life on Sept. 22, 2011. He left behind a wife, 4-year-old child and three brothers.
“For seven days I couldn’t take a shower without crying like a baby,” Cooper said.
The LOSS team responded to Cooper’s house the day his son died.
“There were three, four or five times I got up and started walking down the hallway to the bedroom. I was done talking. I’d get halfway down there and turn around and talk some more,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the LOSS team was helpful and meant so much to his family.
“It was anybody in the family that needed something or wanted to talk,” Cooper said.
The program was so helpful from the day of the death until the family filed Luke Cooper’s last tax return, that Jeff Cooper has now become a member of the LOSS team.
“I was reflecting a few weeks later and realized there was not any men on the LOSS team. There weren’t any men to come talk to the sons and the dads and the brothers. That kind of struck me,” Cooper said.
Cooper is now vocal about his experience and wants to do anything he can to help educate people about suicide.
Had Cooper lived a few miles away in Champaign County, his experience with the LOSS team could have been different.
Champaign County Coroner Josh Richards currently does not call the LOSS team out to the house of suicide survivors.
“I have been asked about that before, and I’m more than happy to do so,” Richards said, “I don’t always remember.”
He said he believes sometimes it is just too soon for the family, but he does give out literature about programs available to help.
“Families just don’t know what you need at that time. You don’t know what you’re missing either. We think it should be an automatic response,” Smith said.
“I think it should be the family’s decision whether they want the services or not,” Champaign County Commissioner Steve Hess said. “I don’t think it should be his decision.”
The Logan-Champaign County Suicide Prevention Coalition was created in 2005.
A man from Baton Rouge, La., Frank Campbell, started the program in Logan and Champaign County and has visited many times to train the LOSS team.
Now, Logan County is starting to train other counties to create their own LOSS team.
There are currently six other LOSS team programs in Ohio, and dozens more including Clark County are in the process of training LOSS team members.