Fishers dad reaches out to youth and male peers with goal of building bridge of hope

Published:
Updated:

FISHERS Ind. (WTHR) — The sound of a helicopter sparks panic in Mike Riekhof.

He remembers when choppers circled over his Fishers home in 2013, as police searched for his missing daughter around Geist Reservoir.

"It's a complete shock because you just don't see that coming. That's the fear. I would have never guessed she would have taken her own life," Riekhof said.

Peyton Riekhof was just 18 when she lost her battle with depression on July 18th, 2013.

"It's been 5 years. I still think there is a cultural issue with suicide I think we're afraid to talk about it," Riekhof said. "We need to talk about suicide. Suicide does not lead to more suicide. Suicide discussions lead to less suicides. It's not going to plant a seed in their brain, as a matter of fact, if that seed is already there this could actually help them."

Riekhof grieves daily and feels compelled to act and educate to save others from his situation. He understand how despair can affect even beautiful, smart, athletic and popular people like Peyton.

"I show her picture because I show that that is the face of suicide with her smiling. She doesn't look depressed. That is the goal to say we have kids masking their illness right now and hiding from it," Riekhof said.

To get the word out, he runs an annual softball tournament, called "Play for Peyton." She spent many years on the softball fields and now it's where other young girls come, raise awareness and honor Peyton's life. Mike also attends walks, and community conversations.

He's driven to save your child.

"Teenagers are going through so much that they can come across as defiant or stubborn or aggravated or in a bad mood you know especially when the hormones start flying right? So, it's very difficult to see that," Riekhof said. "Is that just normal teenage behavior or is there something else going on?"

Signs of depression include disorganized sleep, withdrawing from favorite activities and friends, persistent sadness and digestive issues.

Peyton exhibited all of those symptoms.

"We did a lot we tried to take care of her depression and mental disorders starting about her junior year. We did as much as we could at the time, knowing what we did at the time, but obviously it didn't save her," Riekhof said.

Now he wants to save others, and encourage parents to engage, look for signs and act on them.

"A lot of my message to parents is, don't be that prideful arrogant parent who thinks they can take care of their kid. I use the analogy of you know, I send my boys to pitching lessons and batting lessons. I do that because I'm not the expert and it's the same thing goes true with teaching our kids coping skills. I'm not the expert there, so why not send them to a counselor or a therapist to get those skills that they need," Riekhof said. "Really push them, drag them there if you have to, because most kids will object to it at first because of the stigma. They don't think they need it, but I usually say, 'you don't want to end up in my place, drag them there if you have to.'"

Riekhof also wants to reach men who are experiencing anxiety and depression.

He knows men are reluctant to reach out, so he and his friend Erik Robinson are creating a month of events in November with the goal of encouraging connection and community.

The first event is Saturday, November 3rd at 9am.

Learn more about Building a Refuge here.

Community Health Network has QPR Training if you are interested in free training to recognize the warning signs of suicide, to know how to offer hope to someone and how to get help. It stands for Question, Persuade and Refer, three steps anyone can learn to help prevent suicide.

If you are interested there are two upcoming events you can register for:

Filed under: