Don’t silence issue: Be willing to discuss suicide

Our youth do wonderful things. They work hard, excel in so many different arenas and challenge us to be at our best. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t envy their energy, kindness and resiliency.

Yet our children also face difficult moments. Some are homeless. Others have witnessed violence. Too many experience hunger. Like our neighbors and family, they are susceptible to illnesses and tough times.

I’d rather make note of scholarships and successes, but losses are a part of the discussion, too. Since 1996, I have a greater sense of the losses than I did in my first 20 years when I was in the classroom.

Since then, I have come to realize that from the time one school year starts until the next one begins, we may have five student deaths in this county.

As we know all too well, life is fragile.

Sadly we have hearts, homes and hallways that feel those losses.

Since 2008, Bartholomew County has lost a teen a year to a completed suicide each school year, and others have attempted and threatened to harm themselves.

Since 2008, the national data has indicated an increase in suicides, and our county has not been immune to the tragic rise in incidents.

In Bartholomew County, we have worked together to confront the issues before us, and that unity will always be needed. We present the problems and concerns in the classroom, in our homes, at county and city councils, and in every possible venue.

This summer, for example, new opportunities for teens like a Safe House and a Survivors of Suicide group were developed. Conference events regarding relationships and healthy choices are being offered. And, this week community groups are working on how they might address suicide prevention.

Not all tragedies are preventable, but our community needs to continue to prepare for those that might be.

Building relationships, fostering hope and developing a trust that invites difficult conversations have to be priorities.

We all have to be willing to speak with our children and neighbors about suicide prevention.

We need to recognize warning signs, to be aware of resources and to understand what we might do when an individual is in distress.

Suicide will continue to be listed as a silent epidemic if we won’t talk about it. We have to ask ourselves how we might be more proactive.

Larry Perkinson of Columbus is the employee and student assistance coordinator for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.