David Pumarejo wasn’t even thinking about his senior service practicum while he was meeting with football coach Andy Dorrel last May.
But Dorrel asked if he would be interested in tackling a major problem in Indiana – teen suicide. An organization, Zero Suicides in Indiana Youth, had contacted high school coaches throughout the state, hoping to enlist their support with raising awareness about the issue.
Suicide is the No. 2 cause of death among 15-34 year olds and the third among 10-14 year olds. And a Center for Disease Control’s 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed that the percentage of Indiana students actually attempting suicide was the second highest among the 43 states surveyed.
Other statistics include:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.
- One death by suicide occurs every 12.3 minutes in the U.S.
- Suicide takes the lives of 38,000 Americans every year
The numbers were enough for Pumarejo (Queretaro, Mexico), Ricky Chang (Taipei City, Taiwan), and Joseph Henry (Natchitoches, La.) to work with Zero Suicides to build an awareness campaign that has run through the year. Chang said, as international students, he and Pumarejo could especially identify with those people who sometimes feel all alone.
“You get homesick,” he said. “You’re going through a lot of new adjustments. And your family members are not here for support. We could relate to those feelings.”
And as they worked on the project, an even greater need for the campaign arose. New data showed that in 2014, Indiana had the highest number of teens who considered suicide. Then a student in nearby Plymouth – a football player – committed suicide.
To kick off the awareness campaign last fall, Pumarejo and Jake Rodgers ’18 (Culver) carried purple and turquoise flags, the colors used by the suicide prevention campaign, on to the field during the Brebeuf football game. During the game, short public service announcements were made to the crowd.
Then, this spring, Pumarejo, Chang, and Henry made a special presentation at an all-school meeting that featured this video; distributed purple and turquoise ribbons to students; and placed brochures and posters around campus informing students of the warning signs, how to cope and get help, how to help a friend, and a suicide hotline number.
For something that wasn’t on their radar a year ago, Pumarejo, Chang, and Henry are now strong suicide prevention advocates. It is their hope that all the students will become suicide prevention advocates as well. As Henry said during the recent all-school meeting, “We envision the Culver Community as a suicide free zone with everyone getting involved.”