A group of community members from Gage and Jefferson counties have come together to form the Blue River LOSS Team or “local outreach to suicide survivors.”
The intent of the team is to promote the message that there is help and hope for survivors of suicide, and that they can move forward on a path of healing following a loss.
The core message that comes from volunteers with the non-profit group is: “I’ve been through this; let me help you.”
Dr. Don Belau, clinical director of the Lincoln/Lancaster County LOSS Team, said that research indicates the average time between a person losing a loved one to suicide and seeking professional help is four and a half years.
"But if someone offers help in the immediate aftermath, that time can be reduced from years to days," Belau said. “Also, people who lose family members or close friends to suicide are up to nine times as likely to attempt suicide themselves shortly after the suicide loss, if they don’t seek help."
The LOSS team works closely with law enforcement, clergy members and funeral home personnel, all of whom are usually among the first responders on the scene.
Family members are encouraged to have the LOSS team visit immediately following a loss but are available at any point in the healing process.
Volunteers who have experienced the loss of a friend or family member to suicide along with a mental health professional visit the home of the survivor. They offer support and a listening ear while the family and friends process the reality of suicide. They also leave educational materials and contact information for the survivors.
Marty Seymour, Beatrice Police Department's victim’s assistance advocate, will serve as the Blue River LOSS Team coordinator.
“I chose to be involved with the LOSS team to offer support to those that are dealing with suicide," said Jill Kuzelka, chairperson for the LOSS team. "Not only support, but hope. Hope helps us to know deep down somewhere inside of us we will one day start to feel good again. Hope is what life ultimately is about and that is what the LOSS team members offer survivors of suicide."
Team clinic director Laura Koch is a mental health provider and has seen first-hand the lasting impact suicide can have on an individual, families and communities.
"I have lived in Beatrice for three years and I am saddened by the number of suicides that have occurred during that short time," Koch said. "I chose to take on the role as the clinical director because I believe the LOSS team would be a great addition to Gage and Jefferson counties and the surrounding areas.
"My hope for the LOSS Team is to decrease the stigma of suicide for the survivors and to increase awareness about mental illness to the area," Koch said. "We want to provide compassion and support for anyone affected by suicide because that is such a difficult and emotional time with so many unanswered questions."
Joellyn Trauernicht, a Blue Valley behavioral health clinician, grew up in Beatrice, and said suicide has always been prevalent in Gage County.
"I have seen a lot of families and communities affected by each suicide," Trauernicht said. "I would like to be there for the survivors and to let them know that there are resources available. I hope the LOSS team can help the survivors to find peace and healing."
If anyone interested in being member of the team, they should contact Jill Kuzelka with Public Health Solutions at 402-826-3880 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .