Walking Together: Coalition seeks to support those impacted by suicide

Sep. 2—ELKHART — Suicide is not a topic many people enjoy talking about, but for some, it's a stark reality, and the Elkhart County Suicide Prevention Coalition is working to make conversations around suicide less uncomfortable.

In 2022, Elkhart County suffered 34 suicides. As of July 2023, the number is 13. Elkhart County Health Promotion Specialist for the health department David Wiegner said while there's an uptick in juvenile suicide, the majority of those lost are white men over the age of 50.

"Suicide is a difficult conversation to have," he said. "It is something that may have happened out of the blue for someone and being able to create space to engage with those emotions and feelings that someone may be having is a significant way to help prevent survivors from experiencing or trying suicidal ideations or actions."

It's estimated by the American Suicide Association that almost half of people in the United States have been impacted by suicide whether it's a family member, friend, coworker, or acquaintance of some kind.

"Suicide is a tragic event in-and-of itself but the impact of suicide is broader than yourself and your family," he said. "There's so many people impacted ... classmates, first responders ..."

That's why the coalition is restarting Walking Together, an effort to raise suicide awareness in Elkhart County. The coalition consists of healthcare providers and community organizations such as Goshen Health, Ryan's Place, Oaklawn, Elkhart Police Department, Elkhart County Coroner's Office, Veteran Affairs, and Heart City Health as well as community members who want to make an impact.

This year's Walking Together event will be held from 5-7 p.m. this Tuesday at Wellfield Botanic Gardens, 1011 N. Main St., Elkhart.

It's an effort to have difficult conversations with others who may have had a similar experience or trained professionals, in a safe and serene environment.

"The more people that know that there are resources, the more people know that there are options and people out there to have a conversation with is critical to help create a larger pool that this is a reality and trying to address it," Wiegner said. "Part of our work is being able to get the prevention and crisis lifeline out."

At the event, there will be resources information, and volunteers to help anyone who wants to have a conversation.

"We're trying to create that space for people to grapple with some of those emotions or be somewhere that helps them remember their loved ones."

The event if free for all ages.

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at dani.messick@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2065.