A national campaign argues more Americans need to change their perceptions of mental illness and suicide. Many central Indiana cities, colleges, businesses and nonprofits are now part of that partnership.
Mental Health America reports, in 2015, more Hoosiers died by suicide than in car accidents. And one in five Hoosiers has experienced a mental illness.
The central Indiana group – including the Women’s Fund of Central Indiana, Eli Lilly and Company, and Ivy Tech Community College – hope to change common perceptions of mental illness in their workplaces and communities.
Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen leads a nonprofit providing mental health services to veterans and their families, and says this is an essential first step.
“Not everyone needs to see a mental health professional like me to recover and heal, but we need to start with, everyone can recognize when they’re hurting,” Van Dahlen says.
Nine cities are participating in the campaign. Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness says mental illness in his city is overlooked.
“In Fishers we’ve had three homicides in 20 years. Last year, 13 people took their lives, and another 47 made serious attempts at taking their life,” says Fadness.
In Indianapolis, the Marion County Public Health Department and Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office are working to make sure that available mental health services are publicized and promoted.
Hogsett says this campaign is a step to tackle some of the city’s criminal justice issues.
“We’re trying to meaningfully change direction so we’re no longer talking about how many more criminal beds do we need to build in order to incarcerate more people, who may just simply need our help from a mental health perspective or a substance abuse and addiction perspective. But rather, the question should become, how many jail beds can we avoid building?” Hogsett says.
Noblesville, Westfield, Shelbyville, Greenfield, Zionsville, Crawfordsville and Carmel are also a part of the campaign.
Women’s Fund board member and Ivy Tech Community College president Sue Ellspermann says the student body at Ivy Tech approached her about increased mental health services for the school’s more than 100,000 students.
“We serve a very important group of people, many of whom don’t have access to the health care that others may have,” Ellspermann says. “They are a mostly part-time student body, many of them working, many of them in the working poor.”
The group is promoting community education on the five signs of emotional distress: personality change, agitation, withdrawal, poor self-care, and hopelessness.