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The Journal Gazette

Friday, August 16, 2019 1:00 am


A daily battle

Suicide-prevention efforts demand our vigilance

For help

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


Text: CSIS to 839863



For more about local efforts to reduce suicide, contact Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana,

422-6441, or go to

Suicide rates have been climbing nationally, and Indiana has been ahead of the curve. Young people in Indiana are especially vulnerable.

“Twenty percent of our high schoolers in Indiana admitted having seriously considered suicide in the past year. We're No. 3 in the nation,” said Colleen Carpenter, a Fort Wayne suicide-prevention trainer and consultant who runs Stop Suicide Northeast Indiana.

As with dismaying increases in other forms of self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse, there is no one cause for high rates of suicide and suicide ideation. Those contemplating or attempting suicide often lack a sense of purpose and have too few connections. “People who are thinking about suicide have lost a sense of meaning in their lives and they need help finding it again,” she said.

There are efforts underway in this community to help health professionals, teachers, parents and kids find the strength and the tools to fight back.  

On Sept. 10, Stop Suicide will host its fifth annual Candlelight Ceremony for Suicide Loss at 6:30 p.m. at the Lakeside Park Rose Garden. “We're having booths and activities to memorialize loved ones,” Carpenter said. “We'll have a candle-lighting and a dove release.”

On Oct. 22, the coalition will host two-hour training sessions on autism and suicide prevention – one for professionals and care providers and the other for parents of children with autism. “People on the autism spectrum have a higher risk for suicide,” Carpenter said. “They talk about it more frequently and they attempt more frequently. We're just as a nation coming to grips with that.”

One challenge the sessions will address, Carpenter said, is the frustration parents feel when their concerns about their autistic children's suicidal thoughts are dismissed as merely part of the autism syndrome.

Two ongoing initiatives also offer hope. One is Sources of Strength, funded by the Lutheran Foundation, which presents programs at schools throughout the region to teach young people healthy ways to respond to life's problems and to encourage them to seek help from a trusted adult.

Another is the coalition's effort to get schools, social-service agencies and mental health providers to adopt a “common language” when assessing suicide risks. A simple questionnaire can help professionals and parents evaluate the level of risk, Carpenter said. That could ensure those who need help receive it, but it also could sometimes eliminate a costly and traumatic trip to the emergency room. 

In September, the community will mark Suicide Awareness Month. Consider attending some of the events this fall to learn more about the issue. And don't hesitate to seek help for yourself or those you love. The effort to fight suicide deserves our attention year-round.