The number of suicides in Vanderburgh County has fallen some over the last few years. According to the Vanderburgh County Coroner, in 2014 there were 50 suicides. In 2016, there were 40. So far, in 2017, there have been 16. However, even one is one too many. That’s why a local group is holding forums to talk about the issue and educate people on how to help.
Kayla Hands is a survivor and she has first-hand insight on the issue of suicide. Today, she’s a freshman at USI and an aspiring photographer.
Here’s a transcript of our interview with Kayla:
SK: I’d like you to meet someone at these forums who’s been offering insight on suicide as she knows first-hand what it’s like. She is a survivor. Kayla Hands, thank you for being with us today.
KH: Thank you for having me.
SK: You are a USI freshman, a budding photographer – you have a story here. What happened?
KH: About six years ago, I was diagnosed with major depression and severe anxiety disorder. That’s when I started my journey going through suicidal thoughts and suicidal actions. And I’m an attempt survivor and that’s when I kind of started sharing my story and helping people who were experiencing some of the same things I have.
SK: There’s a lot in what you just said. What strikes me is you’re 18 – so you were 12 when this started. That seems so young but you’ve probably met people as young as you?
KH: Yes. Even when I was hospitalized multiple times at Deaconess Cross Pointe, there were kids around 3 or 4 dealing with the same issues I was dealing with.
SK: 3 or 4?
KH: Yes, it was very shocking to me to see kids that small going through things that I was.
SK: Did you know at the time what was happening, what was wrong?
KH: Not really. I think in the back of my mind, what it was – but I was afraid of making that step out and getting help – or I was afraid it wasn’t going to help me.
SK: Who did help you? Did someone say ‘hey something’s wrong here?’
KH: It was actually my best friend. She told the school counselor and that’s when my parents got involved. And we started, I started going to therapy and treatment and things along those lines.
SK: Were you receptive when she first said this? I think that would be kind of hard to hear.
KH: Yes, I accepted some things she said. But some things I was in denial. It was a hard thing to hear, but then again, anything’s hard to hear when it comes to this topic.
SK: When did it click? When did you realize ‘yeah I need to get help?’
KH: It was probably when I started therapy because my therapist started to highlight the things I was experiencing and how they were negatively affecting me.
SK: Did you experience or feel like there was a stigma?
KH: Yes, there’s a huge stigma around mental health and that’s one of the main things I like to talk about because surrounding suicide and mental health – it’s kind of like cancer. You think of cancer as this thing: people aren’t ashamed to talk about it. But people are afraid to talk about mental health. That’s why these forums are so important. They’re helping save someone’s life. Suicide prevention is a lot more important than people make it out to be.
SK: Absolutely. The next forum starts 6 p.m. tonight. What do people find out in these forums?
KH: They basically find out how to help people having these feelings or experiencing suicidal thoughts. Helping to keep them safe. The saying for QPR is Question, Persuade, Refer because you’re questioning the person, ‘are you thinking of suicide,’ persuading them to get help, and then referring them to a mental health professional.
SK: So I guess one of the big messages here: you can ask someone if they’re thinking of suicide. I think there’s been an idea by bringing it up you might push someone to that.
KH: There’s always been this stigma that asking them about suicide is going to make them think about it. It’s also not going to affect them negatively because if they’re not thinking about it, they’re not thinking about it. But if they are experiencing it, people have a natural instinct to want to live– putting on a helmet, buckling a seatbelt. Even Kevin Hine who survived a suicide attempt jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. He said even when he was falling off the bridge, he regretted it.
SK: Did you have moments where you regretted?
KH: Yes I did.
SK: How are you now?
KH: I’m having the time of my life going to college, making friends, and just having the time of my life being recovered.
SK: So people need to know there is another side to this: you can recover.
KH: And one of the things at these QPR sessions, no one should be left behind. Some people may say if they don’t want to be saved, they can’t be saved. That’s so not true though because I didn’t want to be saved at the time and look where I am now.
SK: What do you want to tell people about suicide and what they should do?
KH: I want people to know it’s a serious problem and that they should speak out, share their stories, and help each other as a community. The mayor, and everyone else, they’ve been a big help in getting the suicide prevention effort across.
SK: Talk about it.
KH: Yes, talk about it.
SK: Thank you for coming on today. You’re a role model and I’m very pleased to meet you. Thank you for coming on today and spreading the word.