**This article contains a discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, Crisis & Suicide Intervention Hotline at 317-251-7575, text IN to 741741 or CSIS to 839863, or find resources from Indiana Suicide Prevention.**
INDIANAPOLIS — The ongoing pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of Hoosiers and people across the country. But attempts to de-stigmatize mental health struggles and encourage reaching out for help are not new.
Now, a national effort to change the way crises are handled will impact suicide prevention in Indiana.
"My brother and I were in grade school. I was 11 and he was 9 when we lost our dad. So, this upcoming November will be 20 years," said Kelsey Steuer, whose father took his own life.
Steuer explained navigating through different emotions and learning at an early age how her father died.
"While we did share about our dad and had stories, we just never discussed how he died and why he died. My brother and I knew, but it was never discussed as a family," Steuer said.
Steuer said it wasn't until she got older that she realized the ripple effect of suicide through her family.
"I found out that my grandfather, his dad also died by suicide and then his grandma. So, it's three generations on my dad's side that have died by suicide," Steuer added.
Nearly decades after her father's passing, Steuer, her brother, and grandmother are pouring their efforts into suicide prevention. Steuer is the Indiana area director of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
"What it really did was allow me to love my dad through an active way of helping other families" Steuer said.
In Indiana, suicide is the 10th overall leading cause of death, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It's the 3rd leading cause for ages 10 to 24 and 2nd for ages 25 to 34.
There's a national effort in place for those in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health counselors. It's simply by dialing the three-digit suicide prevention hotline, 9-8-8.
"It's a long time coming," Steuer said.
The 988-suicide prevention hotline is expected to roll out in July of 2022.
Barbara Thompson, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness Indiana (NAMI) explained that since the beginning of the pandemic, their current helpline has seen an increase in calls. Thompson said 988 will be a big help for how her organization responds as well as law enforcement.
"Law enforcement, they really shouldn't be responding to a mental health crisis, they should be focused on people breaking laws," Thompson said. "Mental health crisis should really be met with someone able to treat a mental health problem."
Thompson said they expect some bumps at first as they prepare to launch, but they're building up support to make sure those experiencing a mental health crisis get the best possible response.
Steuer agrees that this national effort will be a huge benefit for Hoosiers who are reaching out for help.
"Like, I got goosebumps. It's incredible. I think it does so many things. One, it really solidifies that mental health is just as important as physical health. It's going to be able to redirect resources for people who are struggling and make sure they have the right people at the right time," Steuer said.
The bill designating 988 as the new national suicide hotline number was passed by Congress last year. WRTV will keep checking with the state and local organizations to learn more about the planned July 2022 launch.
Right now, help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-talk. You can also reach a crisis counselor any time of day by texting NAMI at 741-741.
To contact Indiana Suicide Prevention, click here for more information.