Name: Barbara Brunzell
Town of Residence: West Boylston, MA
What does LOSSteam MetroWest do?
LOSSteam MetroWest is a crisis response team whose volunteers are called to the scene of a suicide to provide immediate emotional support and local resources to the family and friends of the deceased. The goal is for the newly bereaved to reach out for help as soon as possible after their loss.
How long have you been a part of LOSSteam MetroWest?
I’ve been a part of LOSSteam MetroWest since its inception back in December 2015.
How did you get involved with LOSSteam MetroWest?
When I first learned about the LOSSteam program, I knew instantly it was something I wanted to do. I lost my oldest brother to suicide when he was a senior in high school. My family had little support and few resources to navigate that incredibly difficult time. To have the opportunity to support loss survivors in the first hours of their loss was an idea that resonated deeply with me. If my family had been offered a LOSSteam visit, I truly believe our path toward healing would have been profoundly different.
What made you decide to become a part of LOSSteam MetroWest?
When I searched for a nearby LOSSteam to contact about a volunteer role, I quickly discovered that there were no teams in Massachusetts. In fact, the closest team was in Ohio. It became clear that if I wanted to be involved in this incredible program, I would have to start my own LOSSteam. With the support and guidance of Eileen Davis at Call2Talk and the MetroWest Coalition for Suicide Prevention, we were able to work together to create a plan, gather program materials, and tap into a volunteer base that already existed through the Call2Talk program. Without this network, startup would have been much more challenging.
What is your role in LOSSteam MetroWest? I am the Team Leader for LOSSteam MetroWest. In the event of a LOSSteam activation, I am contacted and briefed on the situation. I then reach out to our team of volunteers to determine availability and coordinate arrival on scene. I attend volunteer recruitment events and conduct volunteer information sessions and trainings. I handle all team communications and hold team meetings as needed. I am the main contact for the police departments with whom we are partnered.
Why is the LOSSteam important? Losing a loved one to suicide is unlike any other type of loss and can only be fully understood by those who have experienced this trauma firsthand. Research shows that those who have lost a loved one to suicide are 40% more likely to have thoughts of suicide. Without LOSSteam intervention, survivors seek help in 4.5 years on average. With a LOSSteam visit, survivors seek help in less than 47 days.
The program is, in essence, postvention as prevention. As such, we work hand in hand with our friends at Call2Talk to offer loss survivors a safe and confidential place to call should they need emotional support in the days, weeks, and months that lie ahead. LOSSteam and Call2Talk are both programs that fall under the umbrella of the United Way of Tri-County.
What is it like being a part of the LOSSteam? The experience is incredibly rewarding. I am honored to be witness to those who are suffering so profoundly. The raw emotion that our volunteers are privy to is palpable. Knowing that we have been able to help people begin to process their grief, even in the smallest way, is truly gratifying. The rush of adrenaline that comes with each activation is followed by a feeling of deep sadness for the family and a certain level of calm, knowing that we did the best we could to help. And always, it provides perspective - a solemn reminder of the impact and ripple effect of a suicide loss.
Do you have any other comments you’d like to add? Through a partnership with local police departments and their Jail Diversion Program clinicians, coupled with the support of our friends at Call2Talk, the MetroWest Coalition for Suicide Prevention, and United Way of Tri-County, we are currently active in six MetroWest towns: Ashland, Sherborn, Holliston, Hopkinton, Sudbury, and Hudson. Our hope is that someday, every town in the Commonwealth will have the support of a local LOSSteam.
If you or someone you know is suffering from thoughts of suicide Call2Talk is there to help: call 508-532-2255 or text c2t to 741741