Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Crisis Hotline Deals with Rising Suicide Rate ; Stats: Almost 19 Percent of Indiana Teens Have Once Considered Suicide

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Crisis Hotline Deals with Rising Suicide Rate ; Stats: Almost 19 Percent of Indiana Teens Have Once Considered Suicide

Article excerpt

INDIANAPOLIS - An increase in suicides and calls for help has a local mental health group seeking more volunteers for its crisis hotline as well as better ways to reach younger people at risk. The number of calls made to the Mental Health America of Greater Indianapolis' crisis line has increased by about 16 percent as the number of people who take their own lives in Indiana has also soared.

From 1999 to 2010, there was a more than 50 percent increase in suicide rates, Julie Szempruch, associate vice president of Midtown Community Mental Health, told The Indianapolis Star.

"Indiana is one of the leading states in the country, which is not something to be proud of," she said. "Nobody knows why we're so much higher."

The state's suicide rate increased by 53.8 percent, making it the eighth-highest increase, according to a May report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wyoming, which had the highest increase, saw a nearly 80 percent jump in suicides. Ohio had a 41.5 percent increase, while Illinois saw a 20 percent jump.

In 2010 in Indiana, the most recent year for which statistics were available, 867 died by their own hand, according to statistics compiled by the Indiana State Department of Health. Ten years earlier, there were 676 such deaths.

Because rates have gone up among teenagers, MHA Indy has started a texting line, with limited staff. The line is open Wednesdays 6 p.m. to midnight and from 9 p.m. to midnight Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Almost 19 percent of teens in Indiana have seriously considered suicide, and 14 percent have made a plan on how to do so, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Increased awareness, prompted by discussion about depression and post-traumatic stress disorder among the military, may in part be fueling the increase in calls, said Mike Dunn, director of crisis and suicide intervention services.

Last year 32 volunteers fielded just less than 10,000 calls. Currently, 23 volunteers staff the hotline. The organization hopes to increase the number of volunteers to about 90.

The poor economy, which has led to increased unemployment and poverty, also may play a role in the increase, Szempruch said. Substance abuse - including an increase in abuse of prescription pills - can lead people to act on their impulses, such as suicide.

Rates of suicide among teens may stem from increased awareness of dramatic suicides, such as the Sandy Hook and Columbine rampages, which may feed people's tendencies to commit suicide.

The rise of Internet how-to sites may also contribute, Szempruch said.

Most of the calls that the hotline handles, however, do not deal with people who are actively suicidal, Dunn said.

"About 85 percent are people just trying to make it through life's daily challenges who are overwhelmed," he said. …

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