Hope Squad begins suicide-awareness efforts

Hope Squad, a suicide-intervention program coordinated through Ivy Tech Community College _ Columbus and IUPUC, will begin a week of activities today focusing on awareness and prevention.

The peer-to-peer, suicide-prevention program will offer panel discussions, speakers and training opportunities through Friday, coinciding with National Suicide Prevention Week.

The Hope Squad is the culmination of about a year’s planning, and is just now recruiting members from the two campuses, said Jennifer Wright-Berryman, a Columbus social worker and professor who wrote a grant request to create Hope Squad at the Columbus Learning Center.

“We want to find about 20 or so students now who are embedded into the social fabric of the campuses,” she said.

The program is funded through a $10,350 grant from Heritage Fund _ The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, awarded in March.

Statistics tabulated by the Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center show calls related to attempted death by suicide and overdose are running about double from 2016 to 2017. In July 2016, the number of calls to the Columbus Police Department was 29, compared to 55 this past July. For the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, the number of calls increased from nine in July 2016 to 18 in July this year.

Hope Squad is designed to train students how to provide outreach to friends or classmates in distress with a direct connection to the mental health system. The Hope Squad at Ivy Tech and IUPUC is a group of students, faculty and staff working with the colleges’ counseling staffs and mentor advisers who assist on triaging to emergency operations or mental health services as needed.

Eight faculty and staff members will work with the students throughout the year, helping plan activities around suicide prevention. Hope Squad also will work with the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Task Force offered through Healthy Communities as part of its mission.

“A well-educated community that is aware and actively discusses the causes of suicide and how to help can increase the success of suicide-prevention efforts and reduce the sad, senseless losses of lives in our community, said Heather Baker, Ivy Tech vice chancellor of student affairs and a member of Hope Squad.

Wright-Berryman will also provide suicide gatekeeper training in the community and at the college to help raise awareness about suicide risk factors, how to respond to someone in distress and how to assist anyone in distress in seeking help.

She has been offering the training, which involves learning about risk factors and how to help an individual who might be considering suicide, to faith-based groups and community agencies, but will branch out soon into public training sessions.

The first community training will be 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 6, with more information about that session being released soon, she said.

This week’s schedule of events includes opportunities for students and the general public to learn how first responders conduct an emergency response to a death-by-suicide call and how they work to intervene and prevent deaths. Another session will offer a “state of the county” look at the causes and numbers of suicides locally.

Community members are encouraged to attend the panel discussions Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Columbus Learning Center auditorium.

Presentations are free.

About Hope Squad

To learn more about Hope Squad, visit


Where to learn more

The following resources are available to anyone nationwide:

National Crisis Line: 800-273-TALK (8255)

National Crisis Line (Spanish language): 888-628-9454

Teen Suicide Hotline: 800-SUICIDE (784-2433)

Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255

To learn more about suicide prevention, visit AFSP.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/AGSPnational/.

Hope Week events

Today: Information tables are set up at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus, IUPUC and the Columbus Learning Center with materials about suicide awareness and prevention resources. All day.

Tuesday: Panel discussion of first responders talking about emergency response to reports of suicide and how first responders work to intervene and prevent death by suicide. Noon to 1 p.m. at the Columbus Learning Center auditorium, 4555 Central Ave.

Wednesday: “State of the County” session about the causes and number of death by suicide in Bartholomew County. Additional information about Hope Squad, Scotty’s Mile suicide awareness fundraising walk and other topics. 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Columbus Learning Center auditorium.

Thursday: Guest speaker from Life Recovery Center, Indianapolis, talking about treatment of substance abuse, mental health, gambling problems and domestic violence. 6 to 8 p.m. at Columbus Learning Center auditorium.

For more information: ivytech.edu or call 812-372-9925.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.