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Student seeks to raise awareness, funds for suicide prevention

May 24, 2021
Two masked women sit behind a table
Two masked women sit behind a table

KOKOMO, Ind. — Working in the health care field, Dori Rees heard stories about young lives lost to suicide.

Those stories motivated her to act.

Rees, from Noblesville, created a fundraiser and awareness campaign for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a U.S.-based suicide prevention network of more than 160 crisis centers that provide 24/7 service via a free hotline.

“I wondered what is happening for someone to feel like they have no other option,” said Rees, a senior in the Indiana University Kokomo School of Nursing. “That was my motivation, and made me become more involved, and inspired me to open up about my own mental health issues.

“If we can start the conversation and provide support, we can be part of the change.”

Rees first brought her project to class, and later set up a table in Alumni Hall. While she was selling stickers and asking for donations for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, she also handed out brochures with information and the lifeline’s phone and text numbers.

“It’s more than just fundraising,” she said. “It’s about being able to talk to people, and listen to them, and inspire others, and let them know it’s OK to talk about what’s going on in their lives.”

During her research, Rees learned that Indiana has some of the highest suicide rates in the country, and that for every one person who died by suicide, 280 people are considering hurting themselves. In 2018, the most recent year the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline had data available, it answered more than 2.2 million calls.

“Imagine through this pandemic how many more calls they’ve answered,” she said. “This year has been hard. Where are we missing the mark? How can we get more people to talk about it?”

She can empathize with those suffering — she’s started talking more about her own struggles with depression and anxiety, trying to set an example and remove the silence around mental health issues.

“It’s so stigmatized that people don’t feel like they can reach out,” she said. “It’s OK to not be OK, as long as we can talk about it. I know it makes me feel better when I have someone I can lean on and talk to.”

Stephanie Pratt, clinical assistant professor of nursing, commended Rees for raising awareness of a topic that has been taboo, and for doing something to be part of a solution — something she encourages students in her community nursing class to do.

“I loved helping her get involved in something she is passionate about,” Pratt said. “We, as nurses and leaders, cannot sit idle and watch the world go by. We must dig deep to what sets our souls on fire and be passionate about contributing to a change. I teach them we are more than consumers of the communities in which we live, we are contributors.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 800-273-8255.

IU Kokomo’s Office of Counseling and Psychological Services offers free confidential counseling services for students. Call 765-455-9203, or email iukcaps@iuk.edu to make an appointment.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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