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Coping with suicide: Surviving the loss of a loved one

On World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10, survivors are creating hope through action.
Coping with suicide: Surviving the loss of a loved one
Posted at 1:02 PM, Sep 08, 2023

The signs were there. 

Matthew Daneman knew that his wife Sheila Hundley struggled with mental health issues and chemical dependency. The couple worked on her issues together, going to a therapist and meeting with codependent groups. 

Yet Daneman was faced with the unthinkable early morning in July of 2018. He woke up and found his wife’s lifeless body at their apartment in Frederick, Maryland. Hundley had taken her own life. She was 42. 

Thinking back on that day five years later, Daneman, 53, still doesn’t quite understand what drove her to the brink. 

“I don’t know if there’s a why,” he said. “I believe in my heart all those issues swirling up into a crescendo — it was too much.” 

Suicide is a major public health problem with far-reaching social, emotional and economic consequences. It is estimated by the World Health Organization that there are currently more than 700,000 suicides per year worldwide, with each death profoundly impacting friends and loved ones. 

Sept. 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. It was established in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention along with the World Health Organization. Each year, attention is focused on the issue to raise awareness and reduce stigma. 

Stigma is a major issue when it comes to mental health, Daneman said. 

“It’s different for the outside world to understand what survivors go through," Daneman said.

Daneman and Hundley met at an Indian restaurant where she was working as a server. Smitten by her charm, he went back to the restaurant to ask the lovely waitress out, and married her in 2009. He knew about her mental health issues when they married, but never had experience dealing with a loved one with such issues. There were ups and downs to Hundley’s moods. He remembers the girl he fell in love with.

“When things were good, she was incredible,” he said. “She’s smart, warm and caring.” That’s the hidden danger of depression and mental health issues — people with depression can experience a variety of symptoms, some of which may be harder to recognize than others.

The suicides of well-known celebrities such as chef Anthony Bourdain, designer Kate Spade and actor Robin Williams bring the issue of suicide to the forefront. These celebrities had fame and wealth and still struggled with inner demons. 

According to the World Health Organization, 5% of adults suffer from clinical depression worldwide. It is characterized by persistent sadness and a lack of interest or pleasure in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities. It can also disturb sleep and appetite. Tiredness and poor concentration are common.

SEE MORE: Veteran suicide prevention project helps recognize signs of trouble

According to Steve Drzewoszewski, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and clinical director of Ellie Mental Health in New Jersey, characteristics to look for in people who may be suffering depression are loss of interest in activities, a negative outlook and loss of self-confidence.

Depression is a leading cause of disability around the world, the World Health Organization wrote in a report. The effects of depression can be long-lasting or recurrent and can dramatically affect a person’s ability to function and live a rewarding life. 

“Creating Hope Through Action” is the triennial theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021-2023. This theme serves as a call to action and a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide, and that through actions prevention could be strengthened. 

For survivors like Daneman, there are support groups within organizations such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Since his wife’s unexpected death, Daneman has been active in support groups and donate to suicide prevention causes. He has remarried and now lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Daneman encourages people with loved ones experiencing depression to seek out sources and professionals who can help. 

“I was fielding this blindly. I wish I knew more,” Daneman said.     

 If you need to talk to someone, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. 

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