Tracey Pacheco Medeiros, Steve Palm And Kathy Nemkovich came together for one common purpose – to improve the quality of their respective lives as they continued along a healing path. Tracey, as an attempt survivor, and Steve and Kathy as loss survivors, came together via a wellness check workshop series co-developed by Tracey, called the Re-Energize & Re-Connect (R&R).
They are an unlikely trio but together they have impacted hundreds with their “blended hearts” approach. In 2018, they presented the plenary session at the Massachusetts Conference for Suicide Prevention. Please join us tonight as they share a snippet of this journey, including some push back received early on – “You can’t do that! (bring attempt & loss survivors together in wellness workshops).” Well, yes, they can. And they did.
In July 2018, co-developers Annemarie Matulis & Tracey delivered a train the facilitator workshop in southeast Missouri. The Missouri department of mental health now hosts R&R monthly workshops under the guidance of Jacque Christmas @christmasjacque and Cara Bland in Joplin. They have been invited to return to Frederick Community College in Maryland to establish a community/campus site.
As members of the AAS Impacted Family & Friends Committee, the “trio” are also helping to prepare the launch of a sample toolkit for the R & R in March 2019. This is a collaborative project with A Voice at the Table and AAS, and the 2nd piece of the larger #ImpactedFamilyFriends resources.
What is an R&R?
The Re-Energize & Re-Connect (R & R) wellness check workshops are a common sense, resilience based approach that instills a celebration of life that incorporates protective factors while being creative, holistic, motivating and healing. The central issue is that this new and innovative format fills a much needed gap in support resources for attempt survivors and loss survivors further along the healing path.
In 2013, during the production of our documentary, A Voice at the Table, it became apparent that some attempt survivors further along the path of healing and wellness would still benefit from an occasional gathering with other attempt survivors. Our decision to take this path was confirmed when the MA Department of Public Health issued a call for “new and innovative” support programs for suicide attempt survivors and loss survivors. The concept for the Re-Energize & Re-Connect Wellness Check series was born.
The original (R & R) curriculum went through several revisions, and in 2014, a focus group and a pilot group, and then the first five month series for attempt survivors launched in August 2015 in Taunton MA. By the time the attempt survivor documentary A Voice at the Table debuted at the April 2014 Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Conference, AAS (American Association of Suicidology) had just announced the formation of its new Attempt Survivor/Lived Experience Division. Voices were being heard.
The purpose of the Re-Energize & Re-Connect Workshop series is to offer a safe haven for suicide attempt survivors and suicide loss survivors further along the healing path to come together and re-energize and re-charge their internal psychological, emotional and spiritual “batteries,” and then re-connect with living life fully: to celebrate life, recovery and wellness. Please note – these workshops are not “counseling” or “clinical therapy” and not appropriate for someone still in early grief or a very recent suicidal crisis.
Each workshop creates a retreat-like environment and stepping stone to continued resilience-based wellness – the ultimate protective factor. However, a powerful but unplanned benefit to having both attempt & loss survivors at the same table together is the awareness raised when stories are shared. Loss survivors continue to express gratitude for having a better understanding of their loved ones and attempt survivors express similar emotions as they fully embrace the trauma and tragedy a loss would bring to their own loved ones. This honest sharing positively influences both groups to move forward in continued healing and in many cases, advocacy.
By the end of the workshop process, participants will:
(1) Recognize the need for continued self-care to maintain wellness;
(2) Re-vitalize their commitment to living life fully;
(3) Develop new connections with other suicide attempt & loss survivors;
(4) Recognize the supportive value they can be to others who have similar experiences
Tracey Pacheco Medeiros a suicide attempt survivor who loves motorcycles and Minions. As a certified peer specialist, she shares her lived experience with those who are voluntarily admitted to a crisis response unit in southeastern MA. An avid gamer, public speaker, and youth advocate, Tracey is also the co-author of a self-published, conversational memoir, Embracing Imperfection, the healing journey of a suicide attempt survivor that she dedicated to teens. Tracey co-developed and facilitates a monthly wellness check workshop series that brings attempt and loss survivors further along the healing path to the same table. An AAS member, she was awarded 3rd place in the 2017 Paul Quinnett Essay Contest with her “Wicked Awesome Wish List.”
Steven Palm @stevenpalm4 (Kacie’s Dad)
For the past three years, Steven has volunteered with the Bristol County Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention. He has conducted major fundraising efforts and support for the annual “Light the Way” suicide prevention and education walk that takes place in September of each year. He attends monthly self-care workshops sponsored by the BCRCSP, including the Kitchen Table Grief Support Conversations and the Re-energize and Reconnect Wellness Check workshops. He is a frequent presenter at community conversations held throughout Bristol County and has participated in film projects wrapped around supporting families impacted by a suicidal crisis.
Steven is the chairperson for The Kacie Palm Project which is dedicated to youth suicide prevention which includes the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Leadership Task Force and the new Emotional Awareness Children’s Book Series for ages 0-7. Steven is a suicide loss survivor. In July of 2014, Steven lost his precious daughter Kacie to suicide at the age of fourteen. He continues to publicly share his story of grief and healing in the hope it will prevent other families from this tragedy.
Kathy Nemkovich @Mcilwee
Kathy Nemkovich, a member of the Bristol County Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention, serves as the facilitator for the Fall River Kitchen Table Grief Support Conversation for suicide loss survivors. After losing her 35-year old sister, Susan Gorgol, to suicide in 2002, Kathy became an advocate for depression awareness and suicide prevention.
While living in Northeastern Pennsylvania, she worked closely with The Advocacy Alliance and members of what is now The Northeast Suicide Prevention Initiative to create one of the first support groups in the area specifically for those who lost a loved one to suicide. She hosted several events, such as Musicians for Mental Health Awareness, to raise funds that were used for training and educational purposes related to awareness, prevention, and ending the stigma associated with suicide.
After relocating to Fall River, MA, in 2013, Kathy joined the Bristol County Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention (BCRCSP). Her work with the Kitchen Table Conversation groups and her participation in community awareness campaigns such as Weaving a Tapestry of Hope series and the annual Light The Way walk has provided Kathy with an opportunity to use her personal experience with suicide and grief to help others while she continues to heal as well. “…The scars you share become lighthouses for people who are headed for the same rocks you hit.”