By Nancy Price
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2017, 47,173 Americans died as a result
That same year, Johnson County’s suicide rate was 14.3 deaths per 100,0000 individuals. Two Southside women, Erica Garrity and Kathleen Ratcliff, are working toward reducing those statistics by forming the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Johnson County.
Erica Garrity is systems of care coordinator for Johnson County Systems of Care. “We try to come together and figure out what are the gaps in our communities, what are some things that are missing, are there things we can bring to our community that will fill those gaps? One of the things that has truly impacted our community is the suicide rate, and so the death by suicide is truly impactful, especially within our schools,” Garrity said.
Indiana has the 10th highest rate of deaths by suicide in the country and is the first in suicidal thoughts among teens. “One of our systems of care members said, ‘There’s this suicide prevention coalition’ and we started exploring more and realized that Johnson and Marion counties are the only ones in the state that do not have a suicide prevention coalition,” she said. “I think everyone agreed that is much needed within Johnson County.”
Meanwhile, Ratcliff, a part of the Indiana Suicide Prevention Network Advisory Council (ISPNAC), had attended an ISPNAC meeting when she also realized that Johnson County did not have a regional coalition. “That’s unacceptable in my eyes,” Ratcliff said.
Yet, she knew that forming a collation from scratch would take a lot of time.
“I already have so many stakeholders in our community, within the systems of care,” Garrity said. “I’ve got DCS at the table, Community Corrections, schools and mental health agencies; they already come for Systems of Care once a week. We’ve already got the people.”
The new coalition in Johnson County applied for a grant to get it started and in May, the coalition received a $5,000 grant. “We used that money to host events in September during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month,” Ratcliff said. “We bought screening rights to a movie that we’ve shown twice in the community.”
The documentary Suicide: the Ripple Effect, is the true story of author, public speaker and documentary filmmaker Kevin Hines, who attempted suicide in 2000. He now travels around the world, sharing his story of hope, healing and recovery while teaching people about the art of wellness and the ability to survive pain with resilience.
Ratcliff and Garrity manned a both promoting the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Johnson County. Guests would share their own personal stories of losing someone to suicide or discussing suicidal ideations and sharing their appreciation for bringing the issue to light. “I remember one gentleman in his late ‘60s, he said, ‘thank you. I have a daughter who struggled with (suicidal ideation) her whole life. Parents need to hear this. The community needs to hear this,’” Garrity said.
“When we talk about a survivor of suicide loss, for every suicide, there’s about six individuals who have had a major disruption in their life,” Ratcliff said. “We think of them as core loss survivors.”
The coalition will be hosting an event Nov. 23 at the Franklin Branch of the Johnson County Public Library. The International Survivor of Suicide Loss Day is held at locations around the world, and this is the first year that Johnson County will participate.
In 1999, U.S. Senator Harry Reid, who lost his father to suicide, introduced a resolution to the United States Senate, which led to the creation of International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day, which is always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
International Survivor of Suicide Loss Day
Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-noon
A light breakfast will be served starting at 9:30 a.m., with the program starting at 10 a.m. Survivors and their friends and family will have a chance to network and connect while creating a craft to take home and remember their loved one through the holidays and beyond.
Franklin Branch of the Johnson County Public Library, 401 S. State St., Franklin
Suicide loss survivors and their supporters should register to attend at www.afsp.org/survivorday. For questions or to donate to support this event, please reach out to Kathleen Ratcliff, coalition chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.