AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — This September is Suicide Prevention Month, and Family Support Services and the Amarillo Police Department want people to know what resources are available—and how to help someone in crisis.
Jennifer Potter, the LOSS Coordinator at Family Support Services, said Suicide Prevention Month serves as an opportunity to remind people they are not alone in their struggles and there is help available within our community.
“People just need to know where to go to reach out,” Potter said. “At Family Support Services, we have a plethora of information and community resources. We have support groups, we serve all populations, including domestic violence. For the advocacy services, we have a Veteran’s Resource Center, a counseling department and education for prevention and for families. And then we also have our local outreach to suicide survivors, which is specifically for people that have lost somebody to suicide.”
Potter noted there are also resources available for the LGBTQ+ population, including Smile Big TX and the Trevor Project.
Potter said if someone notices a change in another person’s behavior, don’t be afraid to speak up.
“If you have anything that just doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to ask the question of, ‘Are you thinking about suicide? What can I do to help you?’ and then reach out for help if you don’t feel adequate into helping that person specifically.”
According to Potter, FSS has a toll-free, 24-hour crisis helpline available for domestic violence survivors and anyone struggling who doesn’t know where to go for help.
Call the FSS hotline at 806-374-5433.
Plus, anyone can call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988, a toll-free hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.
“There’s the Northwest Texas Behavioral Health Hospital for people in crisis,” Potter added. “Potter, Randall [Sheriff’s Departments], and the Amarillo Police Department all have crisis intervention teams specific for if you don’t feel that you can adequately help somebody.”
Sgt. Carla Burr with the Amarillo Police Department said while waiting for help to arrive when someone else is in crisis, the person calling needs to keep themselves safe, too.
“Someone that is in a crisis, especially if they have a weapon, their emotions are very high, and they could be dangerous for a citizen that isn’t trained…” Sgt. Burr said. “My first recommendation is make sure they’re in a safe place. If they can’t be in a safe place, while still being there, then they need to call 911 stay on the phone, and remove themselves from the situation.”
Sgt. Burr said while someone might want to help, they could put themselves at risk of becoming a victim or hostage when the police are already on their way and could have helped.
“We recommend strongly that you remove yourself from the situation if you can’t make it safe. And if you can, then continue to make yourself safe. And then, you know, try pointing out to them things and ask them questions about positive things in their life,” said said. “We try to get them thinking about something good trying to, you know, get them concentrating on not hurting themselves.”
Sgt. Burr said usually, once the person in crisis is able to talk to someone trained in dealing with situations like theirs, they can see that situation is likely not permanent.
“In that moment, it’s the worst thing that they can imagine that can ever happen, and understandably so, but we want them to see that there are good things still in their lives,” Sgt. Burr continued. “So, we try to stress that and get them to realize that there’s things out there that, even though this might permanently affect them, it might permanently affect them in a negative way, there’s still good things out there worth living for.”
Potter’s message to those thinking about suicide: “Don’t lose hope. Just give it some time, and please reach out to your support person, whoever that might be.”
Sgt. Burr serves on a committee called the Texas Panhandle Suicide Prevention Coalition, which includes many community members, including partners from local school districts, the VA hospital, DHHS, FSS, and more.
Potter said the coalition’s goal is to bring together anyone who is an advocate for suicide prevention from all professions to study the statistics through an Amarillo-area suicide review team.
“We actually go through past suicides that have happened and just see, are there any trends? Is there any policy change that needs to happen? What are we missing? And then it goes all the way to the outreach opportunities,” Potter said.
Those outreach opportunities include the Survivors of Suicide Loss Support Dinner on Friday, September 23 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Wolflin House and their Stamp Out Stigma 5K walk and run on Saturday, September 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Thompson Park.
The coalition said the Stamp Out Stigma event will include a resource fair, food trucks, community connections, and activities for kids.
Health and Help: Resources on the High Plains