In case after case, early intervention can help prevent suicides, according to authorities.
Reaching out – either by the person in crisis or by a family member or friend – can make the difference between life and death, according to Coke Beatty, executive director of Pecan Valley Centers for Behavioral and Developmental Healthcare in Granbury.
“The family doesn’t reach out because they’re embarrassed, for one,” Beatty said. “Second, they just honestly don’t know what to do because they are so wrapped up in that relationship. It’s important to know they can make a confidential phone call.”
Connecting with someone certified by the state as a mental health counselor is crucial.
John Knox, a local pastor with 24 years of experience as a law enforcement chaplain, said he has found the victimized family members often say that no professional counseling was utilized beforehand.
Finding a path to relief can come by reaching out for a referral from a wide variety of sources in the community including ministers, social workers, counselors, family doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and many others. They can be found in places such as hospital emergency rooms, clinics, schools, churches and community centers.
But they can’t find you if you don’t reach out to them.
Pecan Valley Centers’ Mobile Crisis Outreach Teams (MCOT), available around the clock, can be reached by calling the information, intake and crisis line (toll free) at 1-800-772-5987.
Molly Mabery, community relations coordinator for Pecan Valley Centers, emphasized that the number is not only for someone contemplating suicide, but also for family members and friends to summon assistance.
“If it is very dire, very critical, our team is dispatched to that person,” Mabery said. “If someone is in crisis, it doesn’t have to be that person that calls.”
The local Pecan Valley office covers a six-county region. Staff members are trained to serve those in need of mental health crisis intervention. In addition to crisis resolution, the MCOT offers:
Assessment of an individual in danger of attempting suicide;
direction for stabilization;
follow-up services to ensure the person in crisis gets the help needed;
crisis relapse prevention.
The toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
If a person mentions suicide it should be taken seriously, Beatty said.
“It’s a good sign that the person needs to seek some help,” Beatty said. “Also, that’s one reason we’re doing mental health first-aid training.”
Beatty was referring to Pecan Valley’s 8-hour training course designed to prepare people to handle suicide situations. Groups of 15 to 20 will be enrolled in an interactive mental health first-aid certification program. Cost is $65 per person. Call 817-579-4435 for more information.
“We’re doing the same training for educators, but the state is subsidizing the cost. Everybody is very open to it. The problem is finding time in their schedule,” Beatty said. “Nobody ever talks about what to do if someone is having a mental health disorder. That’s when things change. They help them see that there is a way out. Suicide intervention really does work.”
People who contend that a suicidal person is “going to do it anyway” are mistaken, Beatty said.
Knox said that there are usually a cluster of factors causing anxiety that can lead to suicidal thoughts.
“It may be financial concerns or relational breakdowns,” Knox said. “And it breaches across all socioeconomic backgrounds.”
He mentioned that elderly people sometimes feel hopeless because of severe illness, for example, but added, “Based on my observation and experience, I’ve seen more younger victims, from teens into their 20s – of the millennial generation.”
Mabery said that relationships gone bad seem to be a more common suicide risk factor among teenagers as well as those of college age. Men can be more likely to be affected by financial pressures such as losing a job. That’s because of the traditional belief that males must be the primary breadwinner of the home, she said.
“It’s so difficult to predict,” Mabery said. “It could be the star of the football team. You always have to be cognizant and on your toes.”
Beatty said, “The most at risk (group) is white males. A lot of it has to do with economic and health conditions.”
“Stressors” that can lead to suicide cover a wide range.
“It could be domestic, financial, chronic illness,” said Beatty, who has worked in the mental health field his entire adult life, including the last 22 years for Pecan Valley. “It’s not uncommon to see suicide or even homicide occurring around domestic issues. Emotions get so high that they do things they normally wouldn’t do.”
He also noted that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become a major problem among members of the military in the years since the wars in the Middle East began.
“There are more returning that have committed suicide than died in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars,” Beatty stated.
Relationship woes, catastrophic financial hardships, severe illness and drug abuse can all contribute to a severe emotional crisis. But, as simple as it may seem, a feeling of hopelessness is one factor that links most suicide cases.
“When it comes to suicide, not a whole lot has changed over the years,” Beatty said. “The common thread is a total loss of hope. They see no other way out.”
Regardless of the contributing factors, failure to seek help can result in a loss more devastating than most other tragic events, according to Knox.
“Family members grieving over suicide is a unique type of grief, unlike any other – so many layers of grief,” he said.
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