2015 marks Lezlie Culver’s 40th year surviving suicide by not becoming a statistic, she said.
Culver, social work graduate student and director for the Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors team, said by the age of 12 both her mother and sister had committed suicide. Culver said with families like hers, that have a history of suicide, it is harder for the surviving family members not to want to commit suicide.
“It’s a trauma, especially if you find them [a deceased loved one],” she said. “ It’s the no-casserole death. You don’t get a dish delivered to you. People stay away.”
Family suicide is one of the factors that could put individuals at a high risk to commit suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
At UTA, the Jason Flatt Act , a bill designed to provide educators with youth suicide awareness and prevention training, will be implemented after Gov. Greg Abbott signs it, said Cynthia Manzano, Counseling and Psychological Services clinical social worker. Manzano said the exact details of how the bill will be applied on campus is still undetermined, but she hopes it’ll be implemented by spring orientation.
Manzano said research shows that the majority of people thinking about suicide are in the middle of a crisis. Manzano said if the appropriate response and level of care is attained, many would never be suicidal again.
As the LOSS program director, Culver works to support families that have lost people to suicide. The LOSS team is a part of Medical Health America of Greater Tarrant County, which goes to the homes of families after they’ve experienced a loss to suicide.
Culver said she teamed up with Regina Praetorius, School of Social Work associate professor, and colleague Sarah Manning to create LOSS in January of 2011.
Culver said as soon as LOSS gets a notification about a reported suicide, which can come from the Arlington Police Department, medical examiners, first responders or churches, the team will immediately provide their services to the family members. Culver said LOSS services include supporting families and helping family members get into therapy.
Alumna Amy Honeycutt, LOSS team coordinator, initially started as an intern with the organization while working on her thesis about suicide survivors. Honeycutt said getting rid of the stigma that surrounds suicide is needed, especially at universities where many students move far away from their support systems.
“I really have a passion to help this population,” Honeycutt said. “I feel comfortable talking about suicide. I’m comfortable with the uncomfortable taboo.”
Manzano said anyone experiencing emotional distress or suicidal thoughts is advised to visit Counseling and Psychological Services for a consultation. Following a consultation, a student will work with a counselor to address how to best meet their needs.
Honeycutt said last month LOSS responded to 17 delayed calls, which are emails or calls about a reported a suicide, and out those calls 19 people were helped. Honeycutt said LOSS also got called to the scene of a suicide and ended up helping 10 people.