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Local Support Group Helps Others "Smile Through The Storms"

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Each year, thousands of families across America are affected by the loss of a loved one to suicide. 

In March 2014, Elmira resident Deb Maxwell's 34 year old son David took his own life. "Bubbie", as he was known to those who loved him, is described as a "beautiful man with a giving heart".

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Maxwell says she attended other support groups for those grieving the loss of a loved one. However she says, the people in those groups often knew why their loved one was gone. For those who are affected by the suicide of a friend or family member, they are still left with questions that may never be answered. 

Refusing to allow the way her son left this world to be the way he is remembered, she decided to turn personal tragedy into something positive. So she began "Smile Through The Storms", a local support group for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. 

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"Smile Through The Storms" meets twice a month at Elmira College as well as participate in handing out information at events such as "Walk A Mile". 

The group meetings are an open forum where people are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings, share memories of their loved ones and know that it's okay to grieve. "All is private, and will not be shared outside our group," Maxwell said. While there isn't a mental health counselor in attendance at this time, a few have expressed interest and there are plans for that, especially as attendance grows.

Forming the support group hasn't been without its challenges. In addition to simply getting the word out that the group exists, there continues to be a stigma society has attached to suicide that needs to be overcome and talked about more openly.

"The attendees of this group and myself wish that others people would realize that talking about suicide will start to ease the burning pain inside. That survivors would understand they do not have to go through this alone."

"Smile Through The Storms" meets the first Wednesday evening of each month from 5:30 to 7:00 pm and the third Saturday afternoon of every month from 3:00 to 4:40 pm in the Elmira College Campus Center Board Room located on the first floor. For more information you can find them on Facebook at Smile Through The Storms or contact Deb Maxwell at 607-241-6624.

For those reluctant to attend a group meeting, Maxwell says they understand that first time may be hard but they are there for those in need. "You are not alone," she said. "We will go through this together."

For more information on the warning signs of suicide and what you can do to help, visit the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention at www.afsp.org

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