EAST CHICAGO — Darlene Tomsich never thought her daughter would kill herself, so she never thought she'd be talking about Jasmine's suicide before a group of a few dozen people here Friday.
But Tomsich, of Valparaiso, said it's what Jazmin would have wanted.
"I miss her smiling face so much," Tomsich said, standing at a microphone, holding back tears. Jazmin Clanton died Oct. 11, 2017. She was 15 years old.
Tomsich spoke at a suicide prevention service, called Break the Silence, held at St. Catherine Hospital as part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. A person dies from suicide every 12 minutes in the U.S., which has 45,000 suicides a year. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, but the No. 2 cause for people 15 to 24 years old.
"Our goal here today is to shine a light on something that knows no bounds," said Paula Swenson, chief nursing officer at St. Catherine Hospital. "Suicide is something that impacts us all. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, rich or poor, famous or non-famous."
Dr. Joseph Fanelli, medical director of behavioral health services at St. Catherine Hospital, noted that suicide is on the rise. It has increased by 25 percent over the past 17 years, according to the World Health Organization.
He said that, on a positive note, medications and other treatments for mental health continue to advance.
"Hopefully we will sooner than later have some success in addressing this issue," he said.
Irene Moore, of East Chicago, attended the service to pay tribute to her niece and nephew, who both killed themselves in 2006.
"There's been such an increase in suicide, not only among the elderly but young people," Moore said. "Kids have a lot of peer pressure and sometimes they feel like they don't belong. They get depression because they don't fit in. It's OK to be different. It's OK to be sad."
She felt hopeful because of a recent Indiana law requiring teachers to undergo suicide prevention training.
"People are a lot more aware now," Moore's daughter, Claudia Garcia, said of suicide. "It's not a scary word anymore."
Tomsich, the Valparaiso mother, said she first became aware of Jazmin's mental health issues in 2016 when the teen gave her mom a letter mentioning suicidal thoughts. Tomsich took her daughter to the emergency room. Over the next several months, she was in and out of therapy, hospitals and other mental health institutions.
As school was starting — Jasmine was a freshman at Valparaiso High School — Tomsich thought her daughter was doing better. She was in swim club. She wasn't suicidal, she assured her mom.
One day, Tomsich was on the phone when she heard the front door shut. She looked for her daughter.
"She left me a note saying she wanted to be a better person," Tomsich said. "I know it was too late. She was gone."
Tomsich found her daughter dead.
"She was a great person, a great soul. This wasn't her," Tomsich said. "I know she's in heaven."
Tomsich's church, The Cross Church in East Chicago, started an organization called the Jasmine Project that hosts kids to talk about anxiety, suicidal thoughts and other mental health issues. During a recent six-week summer program, 37 kids from Northwest Indiana expressed those feelings through art and theater, performing a play at the end of the session.
"She has a purpose," Tomsich said of her daughter. "Her name was Jazmin, like the flower Jasmine. Her seed was just growing."