CARMEL -- Indiana has the highest rate of teens who contemplate suicide and the second-highest rate of those who attempt it. One young survivor has made it his quest to connect suicidal kids with the services they need.
It’s a Thursday night and tall, blonde, Drew Hahn is on stage in front of a Carmel church youth group.
“I enjoy normal things like going to concerts and traveling as much as I can," he tells them. "But what you probably wouldn’t be able to guess about me is that I’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD and I’m a suicide attempt survivor.”
In high school, Hahn was a fun-loving kid who liked to make people laugh. He had lots of friends. He was a good student. He played by the rules. But at 16, a serious brain injury turned his world inside out.
“It wasn’t long ago that I was sitting somewhat like what you guys are now at my high school – making big college plans to rule the world or whatever," he said. "I had an accident at school where I fell and hit my head and that resulted in numerous surgeries and lots of time in the hospital.
When he wasn’t in the hospital, he was home alone with his mom and grandmother feeling more and more isolated from all his friends at school and all the activities he was missing out on – like prom and going to football games. After high school, Hahn headed to Ivy Tech in Terre Haute.
“I just knew I needed to get out of Rushville for a little bit. So, I went to Terre Haute with some friends – and ah, the depression got worse and worse," Hahn said, "and that led me to my first attempt – to my first suicide attempt in January of 2012 – when I was back on Christmas break.”
That landed him in the St. Vincent Stress Center where he was diagnosed with depression. But it wasn’t until after a second suicide attempt the following year that the light bulb finally went off.
“That’s how I got better, you know, because when I was in the Stress Center I decided I wanted to be better. You know, I wanted to feel better," Hahn said. "And so I made that decision – but obviously, for a long time I didn’t. If I didn’t feel like getting out of bed I would stay in bed all day – I wouldn’t talk to anyone - if my phone died – I would let it lay for days. But now, I realize the right thing for me to do is to get up and conquer the day.”
During outpatient treatment, Hahn got involved in suicide prevention advocacy and he’s emerging as a leader in statewide suicide prevention efforts. His life experience is also shaping his career path – he’s working a degree in human services.
At the church in Carmel, he encouraged the kids to reach out to friends who may be hurting and not be afraid to tell teachers or parents.
“I’ve found that the groups I’m in or the fundraising I do means nothing to the ones that reach out to me for help. They reach out to me because they see me on Twitter or Instagram," Hahn said. "They see me on Facebook talking about it. They see someone who isn’t ashamed about having a diagnosable mental illness and they see someone that wants to help.”
Hahn says he used to question why all these things happened to him. Now, he says he wouldn’t change a thing.
If you need to talk to someone now about depression and suicide prevention you can text "HELPNOW" to 20121 or call 800-273-8255.
This Saturday at Butler University, the Indiana chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is holding an event for Survivors Of Suicide Loss from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Hahn is now on the board of the Indiana Chapter of AFSP.