Suicide Prevention: Silence feeds the stigma

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MARY SCHUERMANN KUHLMAN

INDIANAPOLIS – A simple conversation could save a life – that’s just one of the messages mental-health organizations are hoping to drive home on World Suicide Prevention Day.

Indiana’s suicide rate rose nearly 25% between 2008 and 2016, and Kelsey Steuer, area director with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in Indiana, said social stigma still prevents people from seeking help. That’s why she said it’s crucial to discreetly reach out to loved ones who might be struggling and ask the question directly.

“I would much rather somebody be upset with me than not be here any longer. And so it’s important for us to check in on each other,” Steuer said. “The strongest thing a lot of people do is saying they need help, not staying silent and feeding the stigma by staying silent.”

If a loved one has considered suicide, Steuer said the next step is to stay with them and connect them to resources that can help. Almost five times as many people in Indiana died by suicide in 2017 than in alcohol-related car crashes.

Anyone in crisis is encouraged to text 4-HOPE to 741-741.

There is no single cause for suicide, but experts say depression, anxiety and substance-use problems can increase the risk when unaddressed. Steuer said she hopes to dispel some of the myths about suicide, including that it it is a choice.

“I am a loss survivor. I lost my Dad by suicide when I was 11. You know, my Dad didn’t choose to die, he fought to live until he couldn’t any longer,” she said. “People who do die by suicide, they’re in a compromised state and they’re not thinking rationally.”

To help mark National Suicide Prevention Month in September, Steuer encourages Hoosiers to spread awareness by attending the Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Indianapolis on Saturday.

“While it’s a heavy topic, it’s a celebration of life and hope. And if people can’t attend the Indianapolis walk on September 14, we’ll be having other walks across the state in September and two in October,” Steuer said.

Learn more at afsp.org. Help also is available through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-723-TALK.