In Recognition of Survivors of Suicide Loss Day | Uplift Family Services

In recognition of Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, which is acknowledged on the 21st of November, three Inland Empire-based staff members—Regional Executive Director Maria Murillo, Project Director Dr. Rachel Riphagen, and Clinical Director Dr. Candy Curiel—participated in a virtual Town Hall meeting alongside Assemblymember James C. Ramos, the San Bernardino County Behavioral Health Department, and the City of Rancho Cucamonga.

During this Facebook Live event, called “Uplifting Our Community: Surviving Suicide Loss”, viewers learned about Governor Gavin Newsom’s recent signing of a very important bill, authored by Ramos, to establish a statewide office of suicide prevention amidst spiking calls to crisis hotlines and increased concerns about the mental health impacts from COVID-19. We also heard one woman’s story of healing as a survivor of suicide loss and unveiled our newest program: Operation Reach-Out, which helps adults with suicidal ideation.

The goals of Operation Reach-Out are to:

  • Provide crisis stabilization services to individuals who are experiencing suicidal ideation, have had a recent attempt, or who are experiencing intimate partner violence.
  • Reduce suicidal ideation and symptoms of depression for individuals with suicidal ideation.
  • Increase safe coping in relationships, thinking, behaviors, and emotions for victims of intimate partner violence.
  • Provide rapid follow-up. As such, intakes are scheduled immediately and occur within 24 hours.
  • Connect the customer to at least one natural support.

This is a free service whether or not you have insurance, and the qualifications are simple: you must be an adult who is currently experiencing suicidal ideation, have had a recent attempt (of any kind), or are currently experiencing intimate partner violence.

What kind of services are offered?

  • We are community-based, meaning that we are set up to meet the customer where they are in the community.
  • Right now, we are providing both in-person services and services via telehealth.
  • We provide direct services to customers in the form of individual therapy, case management, group support, crisis intervention, and medication support services.
  • We also engage their support system in services and provide group support to them.
  • Services are provided by clinicians and systems navigators.

“It is important that there is support when an individual or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts. Uplift Family Services is here to provide services, resources, and general information to those in need via Operation Reach-Out and/or one of our other existing programs,” said Maria Murillo.

Rilee & TJ in high school

TJ & Rilee in high school

Then Rilee Acrey, a friend of Uplift Family Services, shared her story of losing her best friend to suicide, and how that loss has shaped her life. She met TJ in middle school, and though they went to separate high schools, they remained close. By their senior year, he was the homecoming king and a star athlete, with multiple offers from Division 1 universities, including Harvard and Yale. Unfortunately, in his last game of the season, he took a really hard hit, which left him with a fractured neck and a serious concussion. He ended up enlisting with the Navy after graduation, but was discharged for unrelated health issues, and eventually became a mechanic. Though it wasn’t the life he had originally envisioned for himself, he seemed okay.

Then, on November 30, 2013, Rilee received a shocking call: TJ had committed suicide.

“When people say, ‘This is the last person you’d think of’, this is legitimately the last person you’d think of,” she said.

Her own healing process, like for many who have endured a similar loss, has not been linear. However, part of that healing process has included working to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. She emphasizes that mental health is just as important as physical health, and that we need to normalize talking about what we’re struggling with.

“You’re not alone and we all have terrible days, so we need to be more open and honest about each of us being a work in progress,” she said.

Echoes Dr. Rachel, “If you’re experiencing suicidal ideation, I hope that you see from our discussion today that you’re not alone. You may feel alone, but you’re not alone.”

Some helpful advice for those who may be experiencing suicidal ideation:

  • Know that you’re not alone.
  • Ask for help.
  • Tell someone you trust how you’re feeling.
  • Identify one thing about tomorrow that could bring you a smile.
  • Think of one person or pet that you love and what they mean to you.

For questions about the program or to see if an individual would be an appropriate referral, contact Dr. Rachel at 909-266-2751.

To make a referral, call customer service at 909-266-2770.

If you’d like to watch the Town Hall in its entirety, you can do so here: