November 18 is International Survivors of Suicide Day


Suicide is one of the most challenging societal issues of our time claiming more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined. In 2021, 48,183 people died by suicide in the U.S. and 4,148 in California. In 2020, the Central Coast lost 89 people to suicide. Current research indicates that up to 135 people are affected by some degree by every person lost to suicide. That number includes all people who have known the deceased. Those more severely affected by the death, such as immediate and extended family members and friends, is 15-30.

Grieving suicide of a loved one is different than grieving other kinds of loss. Survivors must deal not only with their grief but also with myriad other overwhelming feelings, such as confusion, guilt, anger, shame and hurt, and frequently feel very much alone. Being on the outside watching a loved one, friend, colleague or anyone struggling with the pain and devastation of losing someone to suicide can make you feel utterly helpless. But your support and kindness matter. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a good resource to learn about how to support a survivor.

As someone who has lost a loved one to suicide, I want to share this with survivors. This is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do.  Though you may not think so now, you can survive. It is not your fault. Know that you are not alone. There are others who have had your experience to help you through your healing process. You do not have to struggle with this alone. There is hope.

Please join us for International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day on November 18,  the one day a year when people affected by suicide loss gather in their local communities to find comfort and gain understanding as they share stories of healing and hope.

Local events will be held on November 18 in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties:

  • Aptos Methodist Church 221 Thunderbird Drive Aptos, CA, 95003
    10 a.m.-noon
    Contact: Luca Willey, or 831-684-1774
  • United Way – Makerspace – 232 Monterey St., Suite 200 Salinas, CA, 93901
    10 a.m.-1 p.m.
    Contact: Jill O’Neill,

On a personal note, my journey toward peace and acceptance would not have been possible without the unconditional love and support of my family, friends and the kind and caring souls along the way. For you all, I am deeply grateful.

Andrea Tolaio
Director, Suicide Prevention Program
Family Service Agency of the Central Coast

Help is here

For more information about Survivors of Suicide Support groups, LOSS packets, materials and resources, counseling referrals and services please contact Family Services Agency of the Central Coast, Suicide Loss Survivors Program at 831-459-9373, Ext. 5 or email

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) offers 24/7 call, text and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

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