The state of our mental health has become a national emergency. Suicidal thoughts and mental health conditions can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Suicide is often the result of an undiagnosed or untreated mental health condition.
According to America’s Health Rankings, the rate of suicide in the United States increased by 33% from 1999 to 2019. In Indiana, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death and our state is ranked 27th in the nation for its suicide rate. In a recent study by the Indiana Youth Institute, upward to one in five of Indiana’s middle and high school aged youth admit to having considered suicide.
Although becoming more increasingly common, suicidal thoughts should not be considered normal and should be brought to the attention of medical professionals. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness of this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic.
“We use this month to shift public perception, spread hope and share vital information to people affected by suicide to ensure that individuals have access to the help and resources they need to learn more about suicide, as well as how to prevent and treat it,” said Cheryl Fuhrmann, founder and senior grief counselor with Dusk to Dawn Bereavement Services.
For families impacted by suicide, the devastating effects can be long lasting. Having suffered a suicide loss herself in 1985, the weight of Fuhrmann’s loss coupled with the inability to access help prompted her to return to school to become a certified grief counselor and organize as a nonprofit to help others suffering through the pain of loss.
“We not only counsel those suffering losses, but also work to educate and advocate,” Fuhrmann said.
“Our educational programs span a wide variety of topics, including prevention of suicide losses, advance care planning and developing effective coping skills to better manage grief and pain.”
Dusk to Dawn is marking Suicide Awareness Month with a special Lunch and Learn event from noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 14 at 300 W. South Blvd. The program, “One Second of Hope: How Resiliency Saves Lives” will feature nationally acclaimed speaker, Leslie Weirich via zoom. Weirich has been speaking on the topic of suicide prevention to teens and young adults for the past five years.
In January 2021, she became the first suicide prevention specialist with Oaklawn Community Mental Health Center in northern, Indiana. She travels throughout the state of Indiana educating teachers, guidance counselors, parents and especially teens and young adults on mental health with a focus on suicide prevention.
She shares her personal story of losing her 20-year-old son Austin to suicide on Sept. 10, 2016. This date, which coincidentally happens to be World Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day, changed her life forever.
Her story became even more rare and unique when on that same date in 2018, the co-captain of Austin’s college football team also died by suicide. The following weekend, that story received national attention as a human-interest sports story and she realized the power of her message and how it could be used to save young lives.
Four months later Weirich gave her first keynote talk for the largest non-profit in her state and that evening they raised $249,000 to put licensed clinical therapists in schools. Since then, she has traveled throughout the nation and was recently invited to share her story with 4,400 active-duty soldiers at Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas.
Weirich studied journalism at Indiana University and has more than 30 years of sales and marketing experience including 10 years as an executive recruiter. She recently resigned from her full-time position as a financial recruiter in May 2020, to devote her time to raising awareness and speaking on the topic of suicide prevention.
She is a member of the Elkhart County Suicide Prevention Coalition where she lives and has been a guest speaker at their events. She is also certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid as well as being QPR Certified in Suicide Prevention. She is committed to bring The Sources of Strength Suicide Prevention Program into every middle and high school in her county within the next two years. She will also be the keynote speaker at the national Local Outreach for Suicide Survivors Conference this fall. You can reach Weirich through her website which is LesliesHope.org
Those planning to attend should bring a brown-bag lunch. There is no cost to participate, but donations will be welcomed to provide free access to programming for those suffering losses. Make reservations online at https://dusk-to-dawn.org/learning-series/.
“Together we are working to restore wholeness to broken lives and build a healthier community,” Fuhrmann said. “If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call or text 988.”
To learn more, donate or make an appointment with the local non-profit, contact them at 765-267-1760; firstname.lastname@example.org; or www.dusk-to-dawn.org. The agency can also be found on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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