Coalition pursues suicide prevention

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An open conversation about suicide is important so the act will not become stigmatized, said Amy Durall, a representative from Victim Services at the Travis County Sheriff’s Department.

On Tuesday, Durall addressed the Austin/Travis County Suicide Prevention Coalition, a group of mental health professionals and organizations that help prevent suicides. UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center represented the University at the event, which featured about 10 local groups.

Elizabeth Roebuck, the coalition’s leader, said these community networks are important to fostering a safety net to identify and prevent individuals who are contemplating suicide.

“The intent is to create a safety net for our community for those at risk of suicide,” Roebuck said.

Durall said the sheriff’s department responds to all types of crises, which includes assisting people who have just experienced a death in the family or who are contemplating or attempting suicide.

“With suicide in the law department, it becomes a different navigational path because it’s not a criminal event,” Durall said. “It’s hard for the families because it’s the first time they had to deal with law enforcement due to their situation.”

Durall said suicides are struggles for families because there are so many unanswered questions, and they do not initially want to believe what happened. But they are more receptive to her department, which offers a softer side of the sheriff’s department than an officer in uniform, she said.

“Our primary goal is crisis intervention trauma response so we can go get them to a place to start making decisions on their own,” Durall said. “We want to empower people to make the right decisions for them and their family.”

College-aged individuals have the highest rate of suicides, Roebuck said, adding that college students have more resources and support on their campuses than most other individuals contemplating suicide. She said 18- to 24-year-olds who are not in college, and do not have access to prevention resources, suffer from higher rates of suicide among young people.

Meetings among local and state suicide prevention groups help UT’s Mental Health Center to network with outside groups and expand support services, said Marian Trattner, a suicide prevention coordinator at the center.

“I came today to show my support of UT and a way to meet other professionals who do this in the community,” she said. “I learned about other resources for UT students and met professional contacts for me, like if I needed training.”