By Emma Bowen Meyer
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
Suicides in Madison County accounted for a whopping 30 percent of the suicides that occurred in east central Indiana in 2010, the most recent year with available statistics. Community leaders have sprung into action to save lives by increasing not only awareness, but the ability of the average resident to step in as a bridge to a safe place.
“So many people are trained in CPR,” said Susie Maier, director of outpatient services for Aspire, Indiana Behavioral Health System. “They aren’t expected to do heart surgery – just step in and get the person to the next safe place. I’d really like to see people trained with a method to talk to someone considering suicide and get them to the next safe place. They don’t have to be the psychiatrist.”
Having developed this method, called QPR (Question, Persuade, Respond), members of the newly formed Madison County Suicide Prevention Coalition are now training members of various agencies, including law enforcement, in the hopes of saving lives. In addition they are trying to form a survivors support group, which would not only include those who attempted suicide but also those who are left in the aftermath.
This coalition is comprised of members from many community organizations, such as Community Hospital Anderson, St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital, the United Way, the Madison County Health Department and the Anderson Police Department.
While the state of Indiana has a suicide prevention plan in place, Maier feels strongly that Madison County needs a plan specifically meeting its needs.
“The message we want to convey is one of hope,” said Maier. “We have a lot of solutions we can offer people – along with many resources. When people feel hopeless and helpless and feel alone and isolated, they sometimes see suicide as a means to solve a problem.”
She is touting the message that better solutions are available.
While hopelessness can stem from many situations, most often a loss of relationship is the primary catalyst. Loss of job, enormous stress, financial poverty, and raising children as a single parent typically factor into the loss of relationship and also compound the problem.
“The chances that someone considering suicide will walk in here and talk with me or a therapist are small,” said Maier. “But the chance they will speak to a friend or family member are much better. We just need to teach people how to respond.”
Often people are backward about asking if a friend is contemplating suicide. Whether it is embarrassment or a desire to remain uninvolved, Maier insists it is contributing to the problem. Rather than shying away from the uncomfortable topics, residents need to dive in.
For the last several years the suicide rate in east central Indiana has been higher than both the state and national rates. In 2010, Indiana ranked twenty-ninth out of the fifty states at a rate of 13.3. The rate of the United States as a whole was 12.4.
Males are statistically more likely to commit suicide than females – and whites are more likely to do so than African-Americans.
“It’s important that we don’t just let this go,” said Maier. “We want people to know that the community’s leadership is very interested in preventing suicides.”