A few minutes with … Lori Bienvenu

POSITION: Executive director of The Crouch Foundation.

AGE: 30.

Lori Bienvenu, of Cecilia, began working with The Crouch Foundation in 2012 as its program coordinator. The suicide-prevention organization was created by family and friends of Jacob Crouch, who died by suicide in 2005. Bienvenu, who holds master’s degrees in psychology and counselor education, also provides training to teachers, counselors and others. For information about The Crouch Foundation, visit crouchfoundation.org or call (337) 234-1828.

What does the foundation do?

We visit schools and teach students about warning signs and steps to intervention. When Jacob took his life, the family found there were no resources in Lafayette and no one who could guide them or share experiences with them. We do training for teachers. They’re required to do two hours of suicide prevention training each year. We also offer a suicide survivors support group for families. It’s an opportunity for them to come and share experiences in a safe and supportive environment, offer encouragement and tips on how to thrive in life after their loss.

What other training do you offer?

We do ASIST: Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, the suicide intervention program adopted by the state. The state used to offer the training free of charge, but since they’ve lost their funding, it’s up to small organizations like ours to offer the training. We had recent training funded by Junior League of Lafayette. We hope to do another one at end of year, if we can get funding.

Do you track local suicide statistics?

In 2011, 7.9 percent of Lafayette Parish high school students had said they had attempted suicide in the past year. That’s from the Louisiana Safe and Supportive Schools Initiative. Roughly 31 percent of students experienced depression in the past year, and roughly 19 percent had thoughts of suicide and 7.9 percent attempted suicide.

When you visit schools, are there commonly asked questions from students?

It’s not very uncommon that after a presentation that someone will come up and say, “I’ve thought about suicide and didn’t tell anyone.” A lot of times, our presentations lead to students self-reporting their problems. Another thing that comes up is students will say, “I don’t want to ask my friends about suicide because I don’t want to put the idea in their heads.” It’s difficult to get people to understand that asking about it encourages open dialogue. It doesn’t put the thought there. It gives them an out to talk about it.

Do you have a suicide hotline?

We don’t, but the state has a hotline. It’s (800) 273-TALK.

Advocate staff writer Marsha Sills