The impact of suicide in Indiana

Stephanie Nicholls took her own life in 2016 at the age of 24. (Family photo)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Paul Nicholls pulls out his smartphone and begins to scroll through pictures of his daughter Stephanie, remembering great times.

"Steph was full of energy. She brought great energy to our family. She was full of life," he said.

The Nicholls family met Stephanie as a 15-year-old foster child and decided to adopt the teen when she was 16.

"She referred to everything as amazing. That was her view of life," said Nicholls.

Nicholls remembers the excitement of the adoption process, family vacations and Steph graduating from high school. But, Steph faced challenges as she got older. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her troubled marriage was coming to an end. Steph had a promising new job, but she was hiding some of life's darkness from her parents.

"When this happened, we noticed nothing," said Paul Nicholls, even unaware that Stephanie was writing her goodbye letter while she was with her parents.

"She was telling us goodbye and hiding it from us at the same time," said Nicholls.

Stephanie Nicholls took took her own life in 2016. She was just 24.

"She didn't give us any chance to stop it at that point. She made her decision. She did an outstanding job keeping all of this from us," said Nicholls.

Stacie Padgett has been an advocate for suicide prevention after her 25-year-old son Drew tried to take his life twice.

Drew Hahn still struggles with the issues that have caused him to try to take his own life, but is now trying to help others.
Drew Hahn still struggles with the issues that have caused him to try to take his own life, but is now trying to help others.

"It's a battle for him every day and he'll tell us that now," said Stacie Padgett. "It's such a dark place for him. He has to be willing to do that fight."

Her son is now helping with suicide prevention awareness events even though he sometimes struggles.

"There have been times when he has called and said, 'I need to go back and get help,'" said Padgett. "He's checked himself into stress centers."

The Nicholls and Padgett families aren't alone in Rush County. Stacey Padgett knows of at least a dozen families in her community impacted in some way by suicide including some adults and a junior high-aged child who took her own life.

The Nicholls family honors Stephanie's memory by writing her name at suicide prevention events, encouraging those who suffer from mental illness to seek help and wishing their daughter had found it.

"We saw a person who had an incredibly rough beginning to her life, being pulled from their home at at an early age, going through group homes into foster care, finally find a landing place, finally find a stable life," said Nicholls. "Everything was on the upswing for her. She was doing great things with her job. She was doing great things for people. She could have had an impact on so many people. Now, we don't get to see that."

WTHR is committed to suicide prevention and the "Have Hope" campaign. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds and the third leading cause of death among 10-14-year-olds.

If you or someone you know might be at risk, please text or call for help. Experts say here are the warning signs. Depression, withdrawing from family or friends, and people expressing hopelessness or helplessness.

It can be hard to seek help for your mental health and even more challenging when you don't have money for treatment. About 56 percent of Americans say they don't seek help because they can't afford it.

But there are ways to get help if money is an issue. Click here for eight options to look into if you need somewhere to turn, but don't think you have the money.

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