AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – September raises awareness about many important topics, such as blood cancer, childhood cancer, and suicide prevention.
For the Amarillo medical community, all three subjects are important, however, one is hitting close to home with the recent passing of a friend.
During Wednesday’s weekly City COVID-19 update, Dr. Brian Weis, Chief Medical Officer at Northwest Texas Hospital, was prompted with the question, “How are you?” In response, Dr. Weis stated that he felt numb.
“We’re going to say goodbye to a gentleman that was a beloved member of the Northwest family, who was also a vital team member for LIFESTAR, and he was a long-time colleague for many first responders in the panhandle of Texas. And he, he took his life last week,” said Dr. Weis.
Dr. Weis continued, “You’ll hear lots of talk about COVID, but I want to remind people that September is Suicide Awareness Month. Right now, there are 1900 people dying every day in United States from COVID-19. There’s 132 people who die from suicide in the United States every day.”
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2019, 47,511 Americans died by suicide. In 2019, there were an estimated 1.38M suicide attempts. The website lists suicide as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
In Wednesday’s virtual meeting, Dr. Weis provided the fact, “We have seen a 35% increase in suicide rates since 1999.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a devastating toll on so many, but in addition, has also caused great stress for just about everyone.
“COVID-19 has caused a lot of significant problems for people and mental health has been a serious concern. There are plenty of resources in this community to get yourself help, including the Behavioral Health Facility in Northwest,” said Dr. Weis.
Chief Medical Officer at BSA, Dr. Michael Lamanteer, later added, “I think we all have- have examples of either with family or friends, or certainly co-workers, where we can- you know, recount examples where we unfortunately lost someone who potentially could have been helped if we knew that they were suffering and were able to get them proper counseling services and or medical therapy.”
As the doctors continued, they agreed that everyone has either experienced first-hand or knows someone that has had to experience the pain that comes with losing a loved one to suicide.
Dr. Rodney Gonzalez, Executive Director at the Amarillo VA Health Care System, also shared his personal experience. “I’ve talked on here before about a driver who worked with me at Fort Leonard Wood, who committed suicide. One day she was our driver, next day she didn’t show up to work. Found out she had committed suicide. You know, it is a tragic story.”
A spokesperson with the Amarillo VA recently shared, “This year’s Annual Report documents the ‘average per day’ is 17.2, which is decreased 6% from last year’s number.”
For anyone struggling with mental health, please do not hesitate to reach out and seek help. There are great resources and people on standby ready to help.
For anyone seeking help, regarding mental health or substance abuse, Texas Panhandle Centers Behavioral & Developmental Health is just a phone call away. Their Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse Services – Toll-Free Hotline can be reached at 800-692-4039.
As for U.S. Veterans, the Amarillo VA has great programs and resources available.
Nathan Bradley, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the Amarillo VA, shared, “We have the the Behavioral Health Clinic here at the VA. And, you know, that is open during, during business hours, 8 o’clock to 4:30, for for same day access walk ins. And so, veterans can walk into our clinic here at the VA and see a licensed therapist or a licensed medication provider, same day.” He continued, “We also have the Emergency Department at the VA. So 24 hours a day, seven days a week, veterans can present to our Emergency Department and talk to the clinicians at the Emergency Department. We have on-call Behavioral Health Clinicians who can present to see veterans who are in crisis.”
Additionally, call 1-800-273-8255, and press one to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
The National Veteran’s Hotline is a 24-hour, toll-free service available to anyone in crisis. If you need help, please dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255) [Veterans can then press “1” to reach the VA hotline]. You will be connected to a trained mental health professional.
The Amarillo VA’s mission is to provide immediate assistance to anyone seeking mental health services. Call for yourself, or someone you care about. Your call is free and confidential.
Please do not hesitate to reach out for help. You are valued. You are not alone.