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A Stitch in Time – NH Suicide Quilt Alleviates Survivor Guilt

February 5, 2007

A quilt may help with the guilt. Work is about to start on New Hampshire’s "Lifekeeper Memory Quilt," a project to bring together family members and friends of suicide victims. Suicide continues to be a leading cause of death in New Hampshire, number two on the list for young adults and teens, according to new state statistics.

The Granite State lost 160 to suicide last year alone. That means thousands of new survivors -- family, friends and colleagues -- are left to find ways to cope. Melissa Heinen is among those working on the quilt. She lost a family member to suicide and says for survivors, it leaves a strong burden of guilt.

"Whether people interact with you, or they don’t interact with you, you think it’s because they also see you as the guilty person in the whole mix."

Heinen experienced a problem that is common after a suicide, when well-meaning friends focus on the “how did it happen?” details, instead of focusing on more positive things that might help the healing process.

"One of the things that was most difficult for me, as a survivor, was how people wanted to talk about death, they didn’t want to talk about his life."

The Lifekeeper quilt will feature pictures of those who have taken their own lives. It's a way to bring survivors together for support, as well as to raise awareness that suicide is a significant public health issue, and to call attention to prevention resources around the state.

The finished quilt will be displayed later this year in Washington, DC.

Deborah Smith/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - NH