Suicide is a topic most of us would prefer to avoid, but for two local organizations, the Dubois County Survivors of Suicide (SOS) and the Tri-Cap Teen Wellness program, raising awareness about suicide is a large part of their missions.
Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control, accounting for more than 30,000 deaths each year, more than twice the number of homicides. The elderly and men are the groups most likely to die from suicide.
Here in Dubois County there has been an upward trend in suicides over the past few years. According to Donna Oeding of the Dubois County Health Department, there were three suicides each year in 2006, 2007, and 2008. In 2009 there were five; in 2010 there were six, and so far in 2011 there have already been six.
“Any time we talk about statistics it’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about peoples’ lives,” said Janet Schnell, president of SOS, “the people who took their own lives, and also the ones they left behind.”
Schnell originally started SOS after her brother’s suicide. “I was driving to Louisville to get support from other suicide survivors there, and I realized there was a need here in Dubois County as well.”
SOS not only provides a support network for people who have lost loved ones, but they also teach suicide prevention and awareness.
Schnell is a certified suicide prevention trainer, and she lists the following as signs to watch for if you think someone you know may be considering suicide:
- Isolation, pulling away, avoiding friends and family
- A significant change in weight, either gaining or losing
- A change in sleep patterns
- Recklessness and substance abuse problems
The vast majority of people who attempt suicide also show signs of distress prior to their attempts, according to information provided by the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition. “If you have any questions or doubts, just come right out and ask the question: Are you thinking of harming yourself? Don’t be afraid to ask,” urges Schnell.
In addition to her leadership with SOS, Schnell is also a contributing author to the recently published book, Seeking Hope: Stories of the Suicide Bereaved. She will be available for a book signing in the SOS booth at the Ferdinand Folk Festival from noon until 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 17th.
Christine Vinson, Supervisor of the Teen Wellness program administered by Tri-Cap states that a large part of her work is getting people to talk about the problem. “On September 10th we had our 6th Annual Walk to Promote Awareness, Education and Prevention of Suicide, and the main goal of the event was to get people talking and to get rid of the stigma, hopefully preventing potential suicides.”
For more information about this walk please visit www.tri-cap.net.
One example of breaking down of the stigma associated with suicide can be found with the United States military. Until two months ago it was the official policy of the United States government that the families of military men and women who committed suicide would not receive letters of condolence from the president, while all those who died from other causes did receive letters. In July of this year President Obama reversed this policy and began sending letters of condolence to the families of all fallen members of the military.
SOS meetings are held the second Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Jasper. They will also be teaming up with Vincennes University, Jasper Campus, to offer suicide prevention training. Dates and times aren’t available yet for this training, but look for upcoming announcements here on Dubois County Free Press.
Other resources to help with suicide awareness and prevention can be found on the Web sites of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (www.sprc.org), the American Association of Suicidology (www.suicidology.org), and the Indiana Suicide Prevention Coalition (www.indianasuicidepreventioncoalition.org).
If you or someone you are close to are having thoughts of suicide please call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.