Seeking to reduce suicide rate, Travis County health officials add new programs, offer advice

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On average, one person dies of suicide every third day in Austin, a new report from Austin Public Health finds.

The study, published in the July/August issue of the Travis County Medical Journal, reports the numbers of deaths by suicide in Travis County remained fairly consistent over the last decade and also followed national trends among various demographics such as gender and race or ethnicity, said Dr. Philip Huang, the researcher overseeing the study.

Travis County health officials are bolstering existing efforts as well as implementing new efforts to curb the county’s suicide rates, said Laura Hernandez Gold, prevention services program manager for Travis County’s mental health entity, Integral Care.

Two of the newest services include a crisis text line for those who prefer sending text messages over making phone calls and a Mental Health First Aid class to educate Travis County residents on how to help those experiencing a mental health crisis, Gold said.

Gold, a licensed clinical social worker, offers advice for those seeking assistance for themselves or a loved one.

On warning signs that a friend or a loved one may be considering suicide:

We help people with identifying the warning signs of someone who may be thinking about suicide, such as a change in appetite, sleep or hygiene, a loss of interest in social activities or engaging in different relationships with people and pulling away from family and friends. They may start to increase use of or begin to use alcohol or drugs. They also might start to give things away.

On what to do if a friend or loved one is considering suicide:

[Help] is about letting them know the changes you’ve noticed in them. It’s about asking them the serious question [about suicide] that needs to be asked and then letting them know that you care about them, you want them to stay alive and that you are there to help them. Then there are the resources behind that, the crisis help line and the crisis text chat. Of course we tell people if anybody is in imminent danger then definitely call 911. Don’t waste time on that if they’re in imminent danger and make sure that when you call 911 that you tell [the operator] what is happening.

On what to do if you are considering suicide:

The most important thing is to try and talk to somebody. If they feel like they don’t want to burden their family or friends then I strongly recommend that they call [Integral Care’s] 24/7 crisis help line. That can make a world of difference just being able to talk to somebody and let them know what’s going on. Our crisis helpline are full of amazing, well-trained staff. People can also contact the national suicide prevention lifeline, and we’re in partnership with them as well. Any time somebody calls through the national suicide prevention lifeline they can then be directly connected to us as well. At the urgent care clinic, we have trained clinicians and staff that care about people and are not going to pass any judgement or ask hurtful questions and are just going to be there to help and listen to their story and get to a safe place.

Travis County Resources

Crisis Help Lines

All help lines listed below are in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The lines are available to anyone including those experiencing a mental health crisis or seeking help for someone experiencing a mental health crisis, Gold said.

Integral Care Crisis Line: Call 512-472-4357
Crisis Text Line: Text TX to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-8255

If someone is in imminent danger, call 911 and describe the situation to an operator, Gold said.

Walk-in Psychiatric Emergency Services

Integral Care’s Psychiatric Emergency Service Clinic is located at 1165 Airport Blvd., Austin. It serves adults and children with or without insurance coverage, Gold said.

Hours:
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Holidays: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Mental Health First Aid Class (also available in Bastrop and Williamson counties)

Integral Care offers a free, one-day class for Travis County residents to learn how to help a person experiencing a mental health crisis. Topics covered include warning signs, communication techniques and ways to access local mental health resources, Gould said. Through a partnership with Bluebonnet Trails Community Services, the class is also offered in Bastrop and Williamson counties.

Mobile Crisis Outreach Team

Integral Care operates two Mobile Outreach Teams that send trained professionals out to help individuals experiencing mental health crises anywhere in Travis County. The team performs a crisis assessment, determines if a person has a support network and helps develop an individualized safety plan.

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Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Northwest Austin reporter. She is also responsible for citywide health care and entertainment coverage. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism in May 2017.
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