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Guest Blog Post: Multiple Tragedies = Risks for Self-Harm


Jul 20, 2016

Guest Blogger: Jill Johnson-Young

ASD is pleased to share this month’s guest blog post in our new blog series from Jill Johnson-Young. The blog series is focused on aftercare, self care, and helping families with grief recovery. Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW, is a clinical therapist in private practice in Riverside, California. She is the co-owner of Central Counseling Services, where she specializes in grief and loss for adults and children, as well as individual and family therapy. Jill is certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist through the Grief Recovery Institute and has more than a decade of experience as a medical social worker in hospice both in California and Florida. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Florida and is licensed in California. Jill is a member of the Orange Belt Funeral Director’s Association. Her passion is seeing people work through the losses they experience and finding a new path where they can thrive in a life they choose. In this post, Jill describes how national tragedies and mental health issues are linked and explains the important role funeral professionals play in supporting those who are struggling to cope with world events. Jill also provides several crisis resources that funeral directors can refer families to if a need arises.

Multiple Tragedies = Risks for Self-Harm

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”-Fred Rogers, Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood

As I write this I am watching my Facebook light up with all reactions to the attack in Nice, the shooting in Baton Rouge, local tragedies… It seems like opening up a newsfeed is guaranteed to bring us all more violence and more tragedy. My clients are overwhelmed, especially those who see me for grief and loss. Every additional event compounds theirs.

Those losses are also going to compound the staff in your mortuary, and those at ASD. They touch us in so many ways, don’t they? As we watched the scenes in Baton Rouge unfold on live TV my funeral director said, “The local mortuary is right there- watch- the cemetery is right nearby.” Indeed it was. How did she know? Because she spent months there in the aftermath of the tragedy and disaster that Hurricane Katrina was. The responders on various federal teams, including DMORT, undoubtedly know some of the officers impacted. The Lewy Body online support group I participate in has a member losing her loved one and she lost a student who wore a badge in Baton Rouge. She was having difficulty sorting out how to grieve enough, and how to make sense of it all.

We no longer have three degrees of separation. We have CNN, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter… and then we have you. The people who pick up the pieces after those disasters. You have enough to manage in your everyday work, but then a series of events occurs that makes life simply seem so much harder. They add an edge, and make us collectively try to make sense as we do what has to be done.

Your staff is coping with the impact of those events. Some of you are helping families right now caring for the victims. Some of you are having a secondary impact in the families you serve. In our area we have had a spate of young suicides. Teens who had so much promise, who all felt that this life was not what they wanted or could cope with. The teens I meet with after those events who are traumatized and questioning their own life and worth, are always impacted by what impact world events will have on their futures. Sometimes, our world being smaller is not such a good thing, especially for those who do not have the coping skills they need to look for help to put it into perspective.

The fact is when you are the ones helping families in the midst of all this you become, by default, a resource for those surrounding the loss. Your website and Facebook page are being viewed by people you do not know who are looking for help because in this moment you are the helpers. Even if you don’t know it. That may include your own staff, or their extended family. You, as funeral professionals, are the example of how to cope with death, tragedy, and to find meaning at that moment. You are the meaningful smile (even on a website), the welcoming hand at a service, the one ensuring tissues are there. Those gestures go so much further than you know.

So this month I want to get you the resources you may not have to make available to your people- your families, your staff, the extended community who seek you out even when you don’t know it. I spoke to the California Funeral Directors Association annual meeting in June, and discovered that many mortuaries are not aware of trends in the other helping professions, especially mine. Therapists are sort of “off limits” to many because of some implication of mental health issues. I want to make resources available, but from a safe distance. It will help you, and your families.

Below is a list of crisis lines. Please note the TEXT line. There is now a text helpline, because the younger generations do not feel as comfortable on the phone as they do in the more anonymous communication via text. That line gets more hits than traditional helplines from the under 25 set.

♦ Boys Town 1-800-448-3000 (24/7)
♦ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 (24/7) Press 1 for Veterans line
♦ Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990
♦ TTY for Deaf/Hearing Impaired: 1-800-846-8517

♦ Loveisrespect 1-866-331-9474/tty: 1-866-331-8453 (24/7)
♦ National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (24/7)
♦ Email the National Domestic Violence Hotline (24/7)
♦ RAINN: Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network 1-800-656-4673 (24/7)

♦ National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1-888-373-7888

♦ USA National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453 (24/7)

♦ National Runaway Safeline 1-800-786-2929 (24/7)

♦ National Eating Disorders Association 1-800-931-2237 (Monday-Friday, 11:30 am-7:30 pm EST)
♦ ANAD: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders 630-577-1330 (Monday-Friday,12 pm-8 pm EST)

♦ Call 800-366-8288 for information on seeking help

♦ GLBT National Youth Talk Call 1-800-246-7743 (Monday-Friday, 4pm-12 am EST/Saturday, 12pm-5pm EST)
♦ The Trevor Project Call 866-488-7386 (24/7)

♦ Veterans Crisis Line Call 1-800-273-8255 (24/7)

American Foundation of Suicide Prevention

There are also online pages where your families, your staff, even you can locate a therapist. This is not an advertisement, because there is no remuneration. I like these pages because clients, including your families, are more likely to call a counselor if they can see their picture and read a description from them. You can find those pages at and

In the midst of what you are facing this month, I hope some helplines will make you feel better prepared to help yourself, your staff, your families…and all the families you touch everyday without even knowing it. You are the face of caring after a loss. I want you to have every tool available.

Check back next month for another guest post from Jill Johnson-Young.

<strong>Be sure to read Jill’s Other ASD Guest Blog Posts:</strong>
<a href=""><strong>#1: Providing Grief Support to Families</strong></a>
<a href=""><strong>#2: Self-Care Moments for the Funeral Profession</strong></a>
<a href=""><strong>#3: Tips for Handling Funeral Home Stress</strong></a>
<a href=""><strong>#4: Supporting the Children of Funeral Directors</strong></a>
<a href=""><strong>#5: Hearts with Ears for the New Year</strong></a>
<a href=""><strong>#6: When a Funeral Director Buries Family</strong></a>
<a href=""><strong>#7: Challenging Careers Create Their Own Humor</strong></a>
<a href=""><strong>#8: Demystifying the Funeral Profession </strong></a>
<a href=""><strong>#9: A Message To Funeral Directors - Your Family Matters Most</strong></a>
<p><a href=""><strong>#9: Reflecting on the Tragedy in Orlando </strong><br type="_moz" /></a></p>


About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at


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