Breckenridge Texan

Presentation focuses on suicide awareness in Breckenridge

Presentation focuses on suicide awareness in Breckenridge
March 28
06:14 2018

About 30 Breckenridge citizens gathered last Thursday at the National Theatre for a presentation focused on suicide awareness and prevention. The event was hosted by The Open Door, a local pregnancy and family resource center, and featured guest speaker Jason Watts, a licensed clinical pastoral counselor.

Earlier in the day, Watts addressed students at Breckenridge High School, emphasizing the need to respect each other, show responsibility in seeking help for someone they think might be contemplating suicide, and having a resourceful attitude by knowing what assistance is available and sharing the information with those in need.

“I tried to create an awareness that they can be the ones to go into their schools and change the atmosphere,” he said.

The group at the National Theatre included concerned citizens, relatives of suicide victims, ministers and other church representatives, health care providers and emergency responders, including the sheriff and the justice of the peace.

Watts said that four out of five teens who committed suicide had given off some type of clue beforehand. “Eighty percent of teens who do it are crying out for help,” he said.

Giving some points for the attendees to realize, he said, “Those who take their own lives, they have gone through every alternative that they feel they have. In their mind … they feel no choices are left. However, they really do want someone to help them.”

Additionally, Watts listed some myths of suicide that many people mistakenly believe, including that suicide is a problem that is specific to a particular group of people. “That’s not true,” he said. “It happens to every type of people. It affects everyone.”

He also addressed the fallacy that talking about suicide will give someone the idea to do it. “That’s not true at all,” Watts said. “Speaking of solutions, offering help could be the very thing that somebody needs to hear that could change the course of their destiny.”

Some of the signs parents, teachers, friends and others can look for in someone who may be suicidal include changes in attitude, such as a lack of interest in the things they normally care about, repeatedly declining grades with no concern about the problem and giving away prized possessions. Another sign is saying things like “I won’t be here…” or “Nobody will even notice…”

“The biggest one is out of the ordinary behavior,” he said. “It’s not just changing interests, it’s just not having any interests.”

Watts specifically encouraged parents to act quickly if they notice any signs that their kids may be contemplating suicide. “Don’t be slow about it,” he said. “Talk to your kids. Let them know you care.”

During a question and answer session following Watts’ formal speech, he encouraged those who were unsure of how to handle a situation to seek out professionals, such as a counselor or teacher, to help them.

The event wrapped up with Desiree Paddack, executive director of The Open Door, introducing people in the audience who can provide help for those who might be suicidal or who know someone who is, as well as listing various resources available locally. Although The Open Door doesn’t offer counseling services, she said, the organization does serve as a resource for assistance in the communities of Cisco and Breckenridge.

Stephens County Sheriff Will Holt spoke briefly to the group, explaining how the police department and sheriff’s office can help. “If y’all recognize that a threat to harm somebody else or themselves is imminent, like if you think that it’s going to happen within hours or that that person’s not safe to leave alone, that they need to be guarded or sat with, that is the time to call 9-1-1 or to call our non-emergency number,” he said. “That’s when we step in and make sure they’re not going to harm themselves or others and then we put a process in place … to get that person evaluated.”

If necessary, the police department or the sheriff’s office will work with a mental health evaluator and/or the justice of the peace’s office to get an emergency detention order to force them into a mental health hospital to stop that imminent threat. “It’s not a magic wand for long-term problem solving, but it sets the wheels in motion for long-term problem solving,” Holt said. “We don’t want y’all feeling helpless, that you have to go at this alone. It’s our job to stop those imminent threats and get that person to voluntarily check themselves into a mental health hospital or, through an emergency detention order, make it happen that way.”

Paddack also provided the National Suicide Hotline number: 1-800-273-8255. Locally, the Betty Hardwick Center offers mental health support and has a support line – 1-800-758-3344 – for information and referrals.


Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Jason Watts, a licensed clinical pastoral counselor, addresses a group of Breckenridge citizens about the topic of suicide awareness. His presentation at the National Theatre was sponsored locally by The Open Door. (Photo by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan)

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