Published: 06:00, 13 May 2021
| Updated: 16:46, 13 May 2021
A new mental health support group has been set up in Kent to help the bereaved cope with the aftermath of suicide.
The impact of a loved one taking their own life is long lasting and those affected do not always find an opportunity to talk or share their own feelings.
This in turn can have a detrimental and often undetected impact on their own mental health.
That's why Care and Support After Suicide (CASAS), a specialist suicide bereavement support group, based in north Kent has been set up to support those effected.
CASAS provides a relaxed, informal environment, where people can share their feelings and experiences in a non-judgmental and confidential environment.
The group was launched by Gravesham and Singlewell councillor, Diane Morton, who is also a registered mental health nurse and trained counsellor.
She lost her own father to suicide when she was 19 and says it has had a lasting impact over the years.
“This is something I am truly passionate about," she said. "Suicide leaves many more people struggling with their own mental health and I know CASAS will help provide some much-needed support”.
The group she has helped set up aims to provide a safe space for the bereaved to help better understand and manage their feelings.
After two successful pilot meetings, CASAS was officially opened last Thursday at the Old Fire Station community cafe in Swanscombe by retired GP and Deputy Lieutenant of Kent, Dr Bhargawa Vasudaven.
For many years the doctor, known locally in Gravesend as ‘Vasu’, has actively been helping to get better and faster access to health services.
He worked in the profession for 15 years and was one of the first medical advisors/trustee of the Kent Air Ambulance and a former chief executive of the White Horse walk in Medical Centre in Northfleet.
Vasu was keen to support the service knowing only too well the impact suicide has on those who were close.
“Many who have lost a loved one years ago are still struggling to manage their feelings..."
“Many who have lost a loved one years ago are still struggling to manage their feelings," he said.
"This a vital service for our community and wonderful to see it is easy to access without barriers – the key to improving all our health services.”
One local Istead Rise resident to have benefited from the sessions already is Peter Scutts, who with partner Kerry, lost teenage son Elliott Holmes last year.
He admitted to being a "bit skeptical" of talking with strangers at first but says after attending the sessions he found them both rewarding and comforting.
"The one thing people don't realise is the people effected end up with mental health problems themselves," he said.
"So when one person dies you end up with more people by default."
Peter first got involved in the project after Cllr Morton reached out to the family, showing them "great compassion".
The local businessman wanted to help where he could and lent his skills in marketing and design to help set up the group's website.
He is now encouraging others to consider attending a session to see if it can help them in any small way.
"We are all people who have been bereaved by suicide and the only people that can really relate are people who have been through the same thing," he said.
The group is open to anyone over 18 who have lost a loved one to suicide, whether that be recently or some time ago.
It meets on the last Wednesday of every month at the Old Fire Station, in Swanscombe, at 7pm and the next session will take place in just under two weeks time on May 26.
Booking can be made online, or alternatively you can call Susan Hart on 01322 389144. For more information visit the website here.