How to offer support when a loved one dies from suicide

Life Lessons

How to offer support when a loved one dies from suicide

Terence and Sean Ryan were more than brothers — they were best friends.

“Sean was a wonderful person,” says Terence, a market development director for Unum based in Boston. “He was funny, insightful, athletic, well-rounded and could fit into any group of people.”

But the highs and lows of a bipolar disorder overcame Sean’s much-loved personality, leading him to end his life two years ago.

Terence and his family learned losing a loved one to suicide is one of life’s most painful experiences — and sadly, they’re far from alone. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for more than 48,000 lives lost and 1.4 million attempts in 2018.

Support for survivors is key

Terence’s situation could have been even more difficult because he’d just made a career relocation when he got the news about his brother’s death. But despite being a new colleague, Terence found support from his work family.

“As I gave the eulogy and looked around, there I saw my coworkers — the coworkers I had just met,” he says.

The combined support of those coworkers, friends and family helped Terence mourn the loss of his brother and cherish the time they had together.

Know where to get help

Recognizing the warning signs and knowing how to be there for someone is vital to suicide prevention. If you, a colleague or family member shows signs of a mental health challenge, take advantage of these resources:

You also can learn more about emotional health in the workplace — including recommendations for employers on how to support employees with mental health issues —in Unum’s Strong Minds at Work mental health report.