Learn warning signs for suicide

HANCOCK COUNTY — Lori May said she knows the lasting effect a single suicide can leave on a community.

But she also knows a simple conversation can be all it takes to prevent someone from giving up on life. Sparking that conversation, however, can be tough, she said, because the signs and body language an individual contemplating suicide exhibits aren’t always easy to spot.

She’s looking to help make those conversations easier. Beginning in 2016, she’ll lead a new suicide-prevention program through Mental Health Partners of Hancock County, a nonprofit organization that seeks to raise awareness of mental illness. Through the program, May will train groups of community members to recognize the behaviors that signal thoughts of suicide and train them to intervene.

Those thoughts aren’t reserved only for people who are mentally ill or have displayed signs of depression in the past, said May, a member of the Mental Health Partners’ board of directors. Anyone can experience those thoughts, she said, no matter their age, race or social standing.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health’s most recent reports on the topic, more than 4,000 Hoosiers died between 2006 and 2010 by suicide. White men between ages 45 and 54 had the highest rate of suicide, but 19 percent of high school students said they considered attempting suicide in a 12-month period.

May said she is driven to support the cause because of her own father’s suicide. He killed himself when she was 4.

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” May said. “You hear people say that all the time, but it really is true, and it’s become a passion of mine to try to help others overcome those feelings.”

She’s offering training to any group of people who want it, she said, from employees at small businesses to teachers and administrators at local schools. Classes are offered at no cost except for a nominal fee required to cover the cost of the pamphlets and other materials participants receive. The training typically lasts about two hours, she said.

May is a certified instructor in QPR suicide prevention training, an intervention technique that stands for “question, persuade and refer” — a common approach used to dissuade someone from carrying out suicide.

Kim Hall, executive director of the local Mental Health Partners office, said suicide is considered by many as a taboo topic, which is part of the problem.

“It’s just not discussed enough,” Hall said. “People who have those thoughts may not want to come forward to anyone because they’re embarrassed.”

May said part of the reason people don’t start those conversations is that some think that, if they ask individuals if they’re contemplating suicide, they might be insulting them or, worse, putting the idea in their head.

“There’s such a strong stigma associated with it,” she said. “But if someone’s really at that point, they’ve probably considered suicide already.”

Kevin Minnick, a member of Mental Health Partners’ board of directors, said he hopes to see the suicide-prevention program take off.

“You don’t always hear about suicides, but it happens a lot,” Minnick said. “Hopefully this will address the need and give people an avenue to prevent it.”

Anyone interested in receiving the training can call the Mental Health Partners office at 317-462-2877.

Training to be offered

Beginning in 2016, Mental Health Partners in Hancock County will offer suicide prevention training for groups.

Anyone interested in receiving the training can call the Mental Health Partners office at 317-462-2877.

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.