Episode 146: Leslie Weirich, Suicide Prevention Awareness
On this episode, Karen speaks with Leslie Weirich, a passionate suicide prevention educator and advocate, and the mother of Austin. On September 10, 2016, on World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, Leslie awoke to the news that her son had taken his life; he was 20. This is Leslie’s story.
Leslie Weirich has been speaking on the topic of Suicide Prevention to teens, young adults, parents, and the military for the past six years.
She often says, “She didn’t choose this work, but this work chose her” with a knock on her door at 2:30 in the morning on September 10th, 2016, when she lost her 20-year-old son Austin to suicide. By sheer coincidence, this date also happens to be World Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day.
Leslie began sharing her story within her local community in 2017 and then in 2018, her story took a turn and gained national attention as a human-interest sports story which launched her public speaking career.
In 2020, she resigned from her full-time job as a Financial Recruiter to begin speaking all over the nation. She focuses on youth mental health with an emphasis on young men, student athletes and the military.
In January of 2021, she partnered with Oaklawn Community Mental Health Center in northern, Indiana. As the first Suicide Prevention Specialist, she helped to raise over 100K to put The Sources of Strength Suicide Prevention Program in several high schools in her community.
Over the past two years she has been speaking on Army bases all over the country and this September will be presenting her talk to The Pentagon and West Point Military Academy.
Leslie is certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid, QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer), ASIST (Applied Skills in Suicide Training) and SafeTALK. She is also an Inspiring Comfort Certified Trainer.
She has been a member of The Elkhart County Suicide Prevention Coalition where she has lived for the past 20 years. Her first keynote talk broke a five-year fundraising record for the largest non-profit in the state of Indiana and raised over 249K to put licensed clinical therapists in local schools.
Last October, Leslie was the keynote speaker for The National LOSS (Local Outreach of Suicide Survivors) Conference.
She grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana and studied Journalism at Indiana University. Her career spans over 30 years in sales and marketing including the last ten as an executive recruiter. However, she believes her greatest accomplishment is her work in raising awareness and saving young lives through her public speaking program called LesliesHope.
In 2016, her family established the Austin Weirich Memorial Scholarship Fund and has given away over 24K in college scholarships. She hosts an annual 5K every September to raise money for the fund which has now been fully invested in the Community Foundation of Elkhart County where all donations are matched at 25%.