Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America. In Indiana, the suicide rate — the latest data showing 16.3% — has been higher than the national average since 1999. Even more troubling, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Hoosier teens and young adults.
That’s why suicide prevention and awareness efforts are so vital. Current and proposed attempts to confront this monster are showing promise.
Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, has co-authored legislation that would require the National Suicide Prevention and National Human Trafficking hotline numbers to be printed on or affixed to student ID cards issued by public middle and high schools.
“Having seen this tragic loss of life in my own community, I believe it’s important we do everything we can to help young Hoosiers know there is always someone ready to listen and help them through whatever it is they’re going through,” Ford said.
Mike Frey of Sullivan believes Ford’s bill could make a difference. “If it helps one child ... I believe it will be worth it,” he said.
In November, Frey lost his 18-year-old son, Cade, to suicide. Now, Frey is dedicating himself to suicide prevention and awareness. Cade was a 2020 graduate of Sullivan High School.
Frey said neither he nor Cade’s mother saw any red flags, yet he discovered his son had confided in friends that he was struggling. In such cases, Frey hopes having hotline numbers readily available would reduce the likelihood of other families experiencing the grief his family has experienced and help ensure other teens have the resources they need.
“Research shows 1 in 5 Indiana high school students — which translates to approximately 200,000 of our children — seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year,” wrote Tami Silverman, president & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, in a March 2019 column. “And data from the past several years shows that percentage continues to rise.”
Indiana’s Be Well Crisis Helpline, which provides around-the-clock access to counselors, is another recent success story. Data shows the helpline, since its creation in July, is playing a critical role in supporting Hoosiers’ mental health.
A response to the pandemic, the service is free and to date has answered more than 7,000 calls. The state reports 45% of callers to the helpline have a pre-existing trauma, substance use or mental health problem, proving the need transcends COVID-19.
Suicide is not something people want to talk about, but “it’s important to talk about it,” Frey said. “These kids need to open up and talk about their feelings more without being worried.”
Indeed, the stigma is real. And dangerous. Frey’s words also hold true for adults. Opening up, talking about our feelings and reaching out for help should never bring us shame; but instead we should be encouraged by the knowledge we are doing what’s right for our own health and the health of those we love.
The Helpline and ID cards offering more resources to youth are commendable efforts that should be given every chance to succeed.
The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute