INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is first in the nation for the number of young people who’ve considered suicide, and is number two for those who’ve actually killed themselves.
Janet Schnell, loss division chairwoman at the American Association of Suicidology, says Midwesterners are very reluctant to talk about suicide or to get mental health treatment.
“‘We can’t have problems,'” she states. “‘We don’t have problems.’ And so, just to reach out and say, ‘I do have a problem, I may need to talk to someone,’ there’s a stigma behind it.
“So, if you actually have thoughts of suicide, you don’t share that information. If you have someone who died by suicide, you don’t share that information.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide has been the second leading cause of death among teenagers in Indiana since 2009. The state also has the highest percentage of young people who say they’ve thought about taking their own life.
Jennifer Barnes, head facilitator for the support group We the Living in Fort Wayne, says there’s a reluctance among many to even say the word suicide.
“We talk to our kids about stranger danger,” she points out. “We talk to our kids about sex. Why are we not talking about this?”
Barnes says the biggest warning sign that teens may be thinking about taking their own life is that they withdraw from things they used to love and become moody or depressed.
Schnell says one young person dies by suicide every one hour and 44 minutes, and the problem isn’t going away.
“We have a much bigger problem than what we realized,” she stresses. “And I don’t believe that actually all the suicide deaths are actually being recorded. I think we have a much higher number that is then being hidden behind accidental death or unknown.”
Both Schnell and Barnes have lost family members to suicide. They say never hesitate to ask for help by calling a suicide hotline and getting the troubled teen to a mental health counselor.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 800-273-8255.