News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 14, 2013

City sees recent spike in suicides

TERRE HAUTE — This week has been recognized as National Suicide Prevention Week, but three suicides have been investigated in less than a week by the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department.

The most recent suicide was discovered Thursday evening at a home in the 700 block of Mary Lane on the city’s south side.

On Friday, Sheriff Greg Ewing said the death was the result of chemicals that the victim, a man who had reportedly been experiencing marital difficulties, had combined with the intention of inhaling the toxic fumes to end his life.  Ewing said the investigation revealed that the man likely died within seconds of inhaling the fumes, created by combining two common household chemicals that can be purchased at grocery or hardware stores.

The man left a warning note on the door of the room where his body was found, Ewing said. The note warned anyone opening the door to ventilate the room because of the poisonous fumes.

Police were called to do a welfare check at the home after someone reported that the man had not been heard from for a few days. When deputies entered the home, they found the note, and immediately exited the dwelling and called for a hazardous materials response.

Ewing said the sheriff’s department had a similar case a few years ago in southern Vigo County, in which a person had committed suicide by inhaling chemicals. A deputy who unknowingly entered the scene — no warning note was left — was affected by the chemical fumes and had to be decontaminated.

In the most recent case, the air quality checked out as acceptable when the hazmat team investigated, Ewing said, explaining that the fumes had naturally dissipated.

Another suicide was investigated earlier this week when a 21-year-old man hung himself at his apartment on the city’s south side. Ewing said the man had allegedly experienced relationship issues with a girlfriend.

And early Tuesday, a woman with a history of depression committed suicide after entering the path of an oncoming train on the city’s south side.

Ewing said it is important for people to watch for signs of suicide and to seek help for people who talk about killing themselves or being unable to cope with their situation.

Vigo County Coroner Dr. Susan Amos said that all three of the recent suicides involved a different scenario. Another unrelated suicide on Sept. 4 involved a man who poured fuel on himself and set himself on fire because a relationship ended.

Dr. Amos said that suicide is not a solution to the temporary problems experienced by those people.

“Suicide is a selfish act,” she said. “The person may think they are making the world a better place, but they are making it more difficult for their family. The families often cannot accept the suicide, and they will have years of guilt because of it.”

For information on suicide awareness and prevention, go online to www.save.org or call the a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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