TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — September is National Suicide Awareness Month and local organizations hope it will be a time to educate the public about the dangers of suicide.

Dr. Laura Landerman-Garber is a clinical psychologist. She says the situation is dire, not just for adults, but kids as well.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death with children between ages of 10 and 14,” Landerman-Garber explains. “So, when we say how big is this, how large is this? I call it an epidemic.”

2021 suicide rates provided by the CDC

Local officials say the issue of suicide is dire in the Wabash Valley as well.

“Last year, Vigo County had 26 individuals die by suicide.  23 males, 3 females, 4 deaths were under 25 years of age, according to Rachel Reed with Mental Health America of West-Central Indiana.  “This year, Vigo County has seen 12 deaths by suicide. 11 male, 1 female, 2 individuals under 20.  Vigo County is ranked 62 out of 92 counties in Indiana for deaths by suicide.  Men are more likely to use more lethal means than women.”

Suicide impacts more than just the person suffering

Reed adds, “Suicide greatly impacts our community.  Those deaths impact many other people- friends, family members, coworkers, neighbors- it affects their mental health and wellness.  According to the National Institute of Health, family members who have lost a loved one to suicide are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide.  Many of us have been personally affected by the loss of a loved one by suicide.  As a community we must come together to focus on mental health and wellness.  

Reed hopes people who are suffering will reach out for help before it’s too late.

“Even though it is getting better, there is still a stigma for mental health and crisis situations, for many different reasons.  Mental health and wellness is something that we all have and we need to get comfortable having open and honest conversations about mental health- and suicide.”

Reed continues, “Sometimes people in crisis have been hospitalized or placed in treatment, and don’t want to go through that again, or have had negative situations when trying to get help.  People in crisis often have difficulty asking directly for help, sometimes they don’t want that stigma, but also when individuals ask for help, people do not know how to respond or ask the right questions.”

According to Reed, increasing crisis intervention training for first responders and law enforcement will help, as well as increasing suicide prevention and intervention programs for the community that help keep people safe right now. 

“QPR- Question, Persuade, Refer- and ASIST are two programs that teach community members how to effectively intervene, keeping the individual safe right now and getting them the help they need.” 

Warning signs to watch for

According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are several warnings signs you could see in yourself, or a loved one, that could point to there being a problem. They include….

  • Feeling extreme depression, guilt or shame
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Talking about, or having a preoccupation with death or suicide
  • Preparing for death, such as updating/preparing a will, giving away possessions, or taking steps to access lethal means (buying a firearm, acquiring quantities of pills/medication, researching ways to die)
  • Exhibiting a dramatic change in behavior, including withdrawal from friends or usual activities
  • Increased alcohol/drug use
  • Difficulties in sleeping or eating
  • Decreased self-care

You are not alone and there are local resources to help

Reed has a message for anyone who may be considering suicide, or who are suffering silently. “Stay.  There is hope.  The bully in your brain is lying to you.  You are loved, you are important, your life matters.  Whatever is going on is temporary.  Focus on whatever is going to keep you safe right now.   Reach out for help- a friend, family member, a mental health professional or 988- but reach out.  You don’t have to go through this alone.” 

If you need help, call 988- 24 hours a day.  Vigo county has multiple mental health care providers, including the Crisis Diversion Center and a Mobile Crisis Unit.  You can always reach out to your primary care physician or go to the nearest hospital as well.

CLICK HERE for more information about Mental Health America West Central Indiana