Suicide traditionally has been a private issue, not often discussed publicly. The complexity of understanding why someone would want to end their own life makes suicide a difficult subject to comprehend.
Thankfully, Bartholomew County is bringing the issue into the open and trying to meet it head-on.
With suicide-related calls and deaths on the rise in Bartholomew County, it has become a serious community issue.
The number of calls to the Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center by people threatening to take their own lives increased from 171 in 2010 to 387 in 2014. Through the first eight months of this year, 275 such calls were placed, setting a pace for 412 by year’s end.
Eight deaths in the county were attributed to suicide during the first eight months. That matches the total for all of last year.
Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. reported no youth suicides in the years immediately leading up to 2008. Since then at least one student death per year has been attributed to suicide. Two suicides occurred near the beginning of the school year by members of this year’s sophomore class.
What is happening locally among youth, teens and young adults is reflective of what is transpiring statewide. Indiana State Department of Health data show that suicide is the second-leading cause of death in the 15 to 34 age group and the third-leading cause among ages 10 to 14.
Suicide trends among high-school-age people in Indiana stand out as startling when compared with other states.
The 2011 Indiana Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that 19 percent of Hoosiers in Grades 9 to 12 seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous 12 months, ranking Indiana first among the 43 states surveyed. Also, 11 percent of high school students attempted suicide in the previous 12 months, ranking the state second among those surveyed.
Suicide needs to be at the forefront of community discussions, and recent efforts show that is happening.
Columbus East High School hosted a 90-minute program Sept. 10 titled “Suicide — Let’s Talk About It.” The student-oriented program discussed suicide prevention and featured speakers and a documentary film. The school district is to be commended for its transparency on this important issue.
Community stakeholders also are taking notable action:
At least 150 people in the Columbus area, including teachers and law enforcement officers, have received evidence-based training on suicide and mental illness.
The Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center has reached out to Columbus Regional Health and social service agency experts to examine possible refinements in helping suicidal individuals.
The United Way Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition, formed in 2013 as the Mayor’s Task Force on Mental Illness, has specifically addressed suicide in meetings. Its members include representatives from the mental health, education, judicial, social services and funding sectors in the county.
Bartholomew County has received a wake-up call, one that it cannot afford to ignore. Thankfully, community stakeholders understand this and are talking more openly about suicide in an effort to increase awareness and prevention.
Continued support of local awareness and prevention efforts is crucial, as lives are at risk. Remaining silent can no longer be an option.