This article first appeared in the Rushville Republican on May 18, 2018.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has been at work in Rush County for the last several years, planting seeds for suicide awareness and prevention with their annual Out of the Darkness Walk. Each year, for the past three years, over 500 people have participated in these walks, which have taken place in downtown Rushville. The large number of participants has given families and survivors the consolation of community support and a safe place to memorialize loved ones. It has raised funds to further AFSP’s national work on suicide prevention.
For the past 6 months, Drew Hahn, Rushville native and suicide attempt survivor, has been meeting with community members at Rush Memorial Hospital, seeking a way to increase local resources for suicide prevention. The need for these resources became apparent to Drew as word of his suicide attempt survival spread among the community. Other people who were struggling with suicidal ideation began to approach him and ask for his help. He did his best to respond to their needs, but It did not take long for Drew to realize that the problem in Rush County is much bigger than any one person can address. News of others who did not survive suicide attempts increased both his sense of urgency and his conviction that Rush County needs to prioritize suicide prevention here at home.
Sadly, many community members have personal experience with suicide and its devastating effects. It was not difficult for Drew to engage their concern. As coalition meetings continued to be held at RMH, local businesses, parents, teachers, medical professionals, suicide attempt survivors and others joined the efforts of staff members from RMH, Centerstone, Rush County Schools and local churches. A student led RCHS group has also joined in these efforts.
Recently this grassroots anti-suicide coalition has gained an official name. It is called the “SPARC, Suicide Prevention Across Rush County”. SPARC aims to continue the work of Drew Hahn, who has recently moved. Their goal is to promote a zero suicide Rush County. In order to fund care for the “at risk” population of Rush County, SPARC has established the Drew Hahn Cause Suicide Prevention Fund at the Rush Memorial Hospital Foundation. As with the Brian’s Cause Fund and the Jake McKee Heart of Gold Fund, the use of these funds will be restricted to a particular cause: in this case, the cause of suicide awareness and prevention in Rush County. Money will be spent to reduce barriers to treatment for suicidal ideation and behaviors, create local support groups for those impacted by suicide, implement trainings across the community, and engage youth to meet their unique needs.
Drew Hahn is thrilled with the recent progress that has been made in Rush County. He said, “This movement means the world to me for so many different reasons & I am honored to be a part of it. When I started this mission of mine a few years ago, I could only dream of this kind of support from so many different walks of life in our community. I have watched Rush County go from a town where the topics of suicide & mental health were not talked about at all, to a town that will now be a statewide example on how to make a positive change while saving lives. I want to personally thank Brad Smith & RMH for taking me under his wing years ago, & supporting my “More Rad, Less Sad” dream. I am certain that SPARC along with the Drew Hahn Cause Fund will provide hope for those who are struggling & change the lives of those affected by suicide for years to come. “
In order to raise funds for suicide prevention activities, SPARC will be hosting its own suicide awareness walk this year. The walk is intended to honor loved ones who have died by suicide, rally allies for survivors and their families, bust stigma associated with suicide and mental health, and draw important awareness to the issue of suicide. This year’s walk, “SPARC’S Suicide Prevention Walk”, will take place at the Riverside Amphitheatre on September 16. SPARC’s Suicide Prevention Walk will feature booths set up by local families to honor loved ones who have died by suicide and other activities. Initial donations to the Drew Hahn Fund will help cover walk expenses and the launching of the Fund. As soon as possible, mental health and other support services will be provided to those at risk. Public education will be an ongoing priority.
“Our community has been hit so hard by suicide over the past several years and I have been humbled and excited to see Rushville rallying behind families and fighting for change,” stated Stacie Padgett, mother and advocate for suicide prevention. “I will be forever grateful to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and I am so excited and hopeful for all these great changes to happen for our kids and community that needs so much awareness for suicide.”
SPARC meets the fourth Wednesday of the month at the Kenneth L. Earnest Family Conference Center located at the Rush Memorial Hospital Medical Office Building. Meetings start at 4:00 p.m. and are open to the public. Questions can be directed to Michele Gettinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 765-932-7513. Donations to the fund may be made online at www.rushmemorialfoundation.com . Checks may also be mailed to the Foundation office at 1300 N Main ST, PO Box 215, Rushville, In., 46173.