Wendy Mamer is the Suicide Loss and Support Coordinator for the Helpline Center, which means she helps people statewide who have been affected by suicide. She sat down with Sioux Falls Simplified to chat about her job, as well as a new website aimed at helping those grieving someone who died by suicide.
Answers are edited for length and clarity. All responses are quotes from Mamer.
What in your background prepared you for your job with the Helpline Center?
I studied psychology in college with the intention to become a counselor. When I was in college my dad got sick and diagnosed with depression and anxiety and so that kind of altered the trajectory I had laid out for myself.
- I worked in psychiatric residential treatment center for youth. And while there, I found a way to balance what was going on in my personal life with my career in the mental health field.
After working there six months, my dad died by suicide.
- Hearing suicidal ideation from residents was difficult when I had experienced a suicide in my own life. (Coworkers) encouraged me to call 211 Helpline Center and get in touch with the resources they had there.
I didn’t call. I was too scared.
- Instead, I made the decision to leave that job because it was too heavy. I went to Augustana in higher education for four years and really got to the point where I was ready to be back in the mental health field.
- I am now in this role that I was once too afraid to call and get those resources for support.
I provide that support that I was so afraid of when I'd lost my dad.
Suicide loss is anything but a “simple” topic, but if you only had 10 words to describe the Helpline Center’s new suicide loss resources, what would you say?
The Helpline Center provides compassionate and empathetic support during an incredibly lonely time.
What’s something people most often misunderstand about people who’ve lost someone close to them to suicide? (And, if you could politely correct them, what would you say?)
I would say that suicide grief is just not comparable to the general type of grief that we’ve familiarized ourselves with.
It's very different and complex and takes a lot of time and intentionality to process through it.
What would you say is the best way for me to support someone in my life who has lost a close friend or relative to suicide?
It’s important to know that you don't have to have all the answers, and nobody expects you to have all the right things to say.
Educate yourself on the resources that are available, and point them in that direction because that’s ultimately how they will receive the help they need to point them towards healing.
The best thing you can do, no matter what, is just listening.
If you could snap your fingers and add a new mental health resource in Sioux Falls, what would it be?
It'd be a resource that everyone has equal access to – regardless of socioeconomic background or any type of status – in the time that they need it the most, not with a wait list that lasts months and months and months.
Let's take a mental health break right now. What’s something in your life that’s bringing joy today?
I really, really love being a part of the community of Sioux Falls and especially interacting with the youth.
- Being a speaker coach for TEDxSioux Falls has just really opened my eyes to the potential and the positivity that our future society is heading in.
What’s your advice for someone who wants to learn more about the Helpline Center or resources available related to suicide loss?
I would direct them to our website, helplinecenter.org, and suggest just familiarizing themselves with the fact that we extend beyond mental health services and really focus on empowering folks to utilize the plethora of resources that our community has to offer.
Anything else you want the people of Sioux Falls to know about you, your job or the Helpline Center?
We provide services statewide, and both 2-1-1 and 9-8-8 are available 24/7.