by Jennifer Jeffries, director of advancement
Purdue College of Education

Mental health activist Carol Ilijanich Loehr (BA'65) has been on a mission to advocate for suicide prevention and awareness since her son Keith Loehr died by suicide in 1999. She has written a book for children about the topic, "My Uncle Keith Died." She maintains a website for suicide survivors, She has written publications, appeared on television and radio, and hosted a workshop for those dealing with a loss from suicide. She designed and distributes green and blue rubber wristbands with the message, "Prevent Suicide. Treat Depression."

During campus visits at Purdue over the past two years, Carol and her husband, Dick, shared their story with professors and graduate students in the school counseling master's program. They came to realize that by collaborating with these counseling professionals in training, together they could create positive change in elementary and secondary schools.

First Scholarships Awarded

Last fall, the couple created a graduate scholarship in Keith's name to provide support for a master's student in counseling. The award is for students with an interest in advocating for suicide prevention through the early detection and treatment of depression. The scholarship is not to support research about depression or suicidal behaviors, but to promote a successful suicide prevention program in primary and secondary schools.

The Keith Loehr Memorial Graduate Scholarship in School Counseling was awarded for the first time this fall to graduate students Jessica Sprowl and Melissa Tanner.

Carol explains their journey and decision to fund a scholarship:

"In 1999 we lost our son, Keith Loehr, to suicide. At that time, we had little knowledge of suicide and mental disorders, including depression, which led to it. We now know that it is possible to identify people who are potentially suicidal. It is also critically important to reduce the barriers between these people and the resources to help them.

"Early detection and treatment is important. That is why we have emphasized that we would like to see suicide prevention programs in primary and secondary schools. Counselors, such as those from Purdue's College of Education, are in a great position to have a positive impact.

"Keith's death profoundly impacted the lives of hundreds of family and friends. We know that this scholarship will have a positive impact on the lives of others, and help prevent similar tragedies."