Saturday, September 5, 2009



Largest gathering ever held for military suicide survivors will draw more than 200 family members Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Task Force meets Thursday, Oct. 8 to hear from families.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - September 2, 2009

San Diego, Calif. – Families who have experienced death by suicide of a loved one who served in the military will find help and comfort in a suicide survivor seminar and Good Grief Camp offered October 8-11 by TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors.

“Experiencing the death of a loved one is difficult for any family, and suicide carries unique challenges because of the stigma associated with this type of loss,” said Kim Ruocco, director of suicide survivor education and support with TAPS. Ruocco’s husband, Marine Major John Ruocco, took his own life in 2005 three months after returning from a deployment in Iraq. “The family is left to pick up the shattered pieces of their lives and we’re here to help,” said Ruocco.

TAPS will hold peer mentoring training on Thursday, October 8. Peer mentoring training teaches survivors how to support each other through grief. As part of the training, survivors will also learn how to tell their story in an educational way, which empowers survivors to help others.

At the beginning of the seminar, the Department of Defense Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces, chaired by Major General Philip Volpe and co-chaired by TAPS founder and chairman Bonnie Carroll, will hold a meeting on Thursday, October 8. The task force will hear from surviving families that have experienced the death by suicide of a loved one who served in the military. The task force is preparing a report with recommendations and findings that will be presented to the Secretary of Defense and Congress. More information about the task force is available at

The surviving families left behind following a suicide ask many questions and seek to understand their loved one’s death. The TAPS Suicide Survivor Seminar being held October 9-11 includes advice from experts to help families cope and support group time. The opening session will address common questions asked by suicide survivors with an address by Dr. Frank Campbell called, “The Canyon of Why: Metaphors for Healing from Sudden and Traumatic Loss.”

The TAPS Good Grief Camp on Friday and Saturday for children ages five to eighteen will offer specialized comfort and care for the youngest survivors. Parents and grandparents will get help from a Saturday morning workshop with Dr. Frank Campbell discussing how children cope with suicide.

Interactive art and a writing workshop with Dr. Jack Jordan Friday and Saturday will help family members express their feelings and develop skills to help when they go home. Meditation and visualization techniques will help survivors find quiet moments for reflection, while support group times with peers give them an opportunity to share and support each other.

To help parents coping with the death by suicide of a child who served in the military, a workshop conducted by surviving parents will offer help and support. Madeline Lambert, who lost a son to suicide and is a practicing psychologist, will hold a special session to help parents coping with their grief over losing a child.

Dads, brothers, and other men impacted by suicide will find help in support groups for male grief. A survivor panel will offer help and comfort to those who don’t see how to find hope in their day-to-day journey following the suicide of a loved one who served in the military.

Because spiritual issues can be intertwined with traumatic loss, a workshop with Laura Biddle will ask the question, “Where is God in this?” Dr. Frank Campbell will also help adult survivors talk about the roller coaster of emotions commonly experienced when coping with traumatic grief and offer tips for riding the swells. A workshop with Dr. Darcie Sims on humor in grief will nurture laughter through tears.

Major General Mark Graham, who is on the forefront of military efforts to promote mental health and encourage troops to seek help if they are struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, will address attendees Saturday night. Graham lost his son, Kevin Graham, an ROTC cadet, to suicide in 2003, and a second son, Jeffrey Graham, to combat in Iraq eight months later in 2004. Major General Graham and his wife, Carol Graham, are active participants in TAPS and offer help and support to other families experiencing death by suicide.

On average, one family experiencing loss by military suicide calls TAPS every day requesting help and support. TAPS provides peer-based emotional support, grief and trauma resources, seminars, case work assistance, and 24/7 crisis intervention care for all who have been affected by a death in the Armed Forces.

Registration for surviving families is available at .

Interviews are available in a private setting with surviving families that have experienced the death by suicide of a loved one who served in the military. Media attendance and filming may be permitted at limited TAPS workshops and limited filming may be permitted at the TAPS Good Grief Camp for child survivors. All interviews for TAPS events Oct. 8-11 must be scheduled and coordinated with TAPS. Media seeking to cover the TAPS seminar and set up interviews should RSVP to Ami Neiberger-Miller, 202.588.8277, .

TAPS is the national organization providing compassionate care for the families of America’s fallen military heroes. Since its founding in 1994 by bereaved military families, TAPS has helped more than 25,000 surviving family members and offered services to assist caregivers supporting families coping with a military death. Services are provided free of charge. For more information go to or call the toll-free crisis line at 800.959.TAPS.

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