Suicide loss survivors unite in Platteville

A support group for those who have lost loved ones to suicide recently began holding meetings in Platteville. The group meets every second Tuesday of the month from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Mound City Motor Bank Branch.
The Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Group held its first meeting in March, inspired by the experiences of Patti and Terri Cullen of Platteville, whose son Benjamin took his life on Nov. 11, 2014 at the age of 27.
Patti Cullen said the night they learned of Benjamin’s death, she remembers saying to Terri and her family that goodness had to come out of what had happened, despite their loss.
“I learned that suicide can happen to anyone,” Patti said.
Before creating the group the Cullens’ first thought about creating a more generalized grieving support group. They attended a suicide loss support group in Madison and realized that the suicide component of grieving was very different.
“I think it was life-saving to walk into a group of people and not have to impress upon them the depths of your pain and confusion, anger and sadness or try to explain to people why this is different – they just all got it,” Patti said.
This realization led to the group and at the first meeting there were 25 attendees. Terri said that he remembers one woman in attendance saying she had waited years for a group like this to start.
Meghan Skemp, who until recently was the Initiative Coordinator for the Grant County Coordinated Team, was also instrumental in the creation of the group. Skemp not only has a counseling background, she is a survivor of depression herself. She said that in high school she was depressed and suicidal and those experiences have fueled her passion for outreach today.
“I am involved in training and helping people feel empowered and more comfortable talking about suicide,” Skemp said. “I want to share my story and what I have overcome to give people hope. You can talk about statistics but stories are the most powerful thing.”
Skemp has taken a new position at the Platteville Community Evangelical Free Church but plans to continue outreach efforts in suicide prevention and loss support.
Skemp and the Cullens are passionate about eliminating the stigma of mental illness and suicide. They have reached out to the Univerity of Wisconsin-Platteville Counseling Services, offering to talk to students and collaborate on suicide awareness efforts for this fall.
The Suicide Loss Support Group is open to anyone who has lost a loved one to suicide. Patti Cullen can be contacted at [email protected] for more information about the group. On campus, UW-Platteville Counseling offers confidential mental health services to students at no cost. More information on these services can be found at, in 220 Royce Hall or at 608-342-1865.