LIMA — On Saturday, local residents participated in Lima’s ninth annual Suicide Awareness and Prevention Walk, remembering those who have died through suicide and bringing attention to a problem that last week left the community grieving the loss of a young man who decided to take his own life.
Shawnee High School student Jon Andrews was found dead at the school’s soccer field in what officials said was a suicide. Andrews becomes at least the second teenager to commit suicide in Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties this year, according to the Partnership for Violence Free Families.
As family, friends, fellow students and the community remembered the life of Andrews and others, mental health officials were hoping suicide prevention efforts such as Saturday’s walk will prevent a similar tragedy.
PVFF and other mental health agencies offer a variety of resources for teens and adults who are thinking about suicide, as well as for those who believe their loved one may be having suicidal thoughts. The organization has suicide prevention coalitions in Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties, which are responsible for activities such as passing out brochures and drink coasters with the suicide hopeline number in local bars and doctor’s offices.
Along with the hopeline number, those thinking of suicide can also use a new texting service. The national texting hotline is operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and connects people with a mental health professionals.
“Sometimes people don’t feel comfortable calling or coming into a mental health agency, so this is terrific for those people, especially teens, to reach out and make a connection with somebody,” said Mike Schoenhofer, executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board.
If a responder determines the person they’re texting is in danger of harming themselves, they can send emergency responders to help that person no matter where they are in the country.
“I’ve talked to crisis workers who are on the texting hotline, and they said they’ve had a number of occasions where they have been able to save a life by connecting a suicidal person with emergency responders,” Schoenhofer said.
For people who feel that someone they are close to may be thinking of suicide, Schoenhofer and Dickman agreed the best way to approach it is to ask them directly.
“We recommend asking one of two questions: Are you contemplating suicide or are you thinking of taking your own life?” said PVFF Director Donna Dickman. “The second thing we tell them is, if they are considering it, ask if they have a plan. We know the more in depth the plan, the more intention of carrying it out.”
Schoenhofer said if someone is uncomfortable asking these questions, he recommends they stay in constant contact with that person, asking if they’re OK and and why they seem down.
“They have to know you’re serious and that you want to stay connected,” Schoenhofer said. “You want them to feel that they’re not alone because that’s a feeling they already have. Your persistence in that connection can make a big difference.”
Reach John Bush at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @bush_lima.