Williamson County leaders to form suicide prevention task force

FILE - The Williamson County Courthouse on June 8, 2016 (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - The Williamson County Courthouse on June 8, 2016 (KXAN File Photo)

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Responding to a suicide call is one of the worst calls Judge Bill Gravell says he can get. As Justice of the Peace for Precinct 3 in Williamson County, Gravell has to do death inquests and respond to scenes where someone has died.

“It is the most somber environment you will ever be a part of, at a scene where a family member has taken their own life.” explains Gravell. “Every single family member is devastated and they all blame themselves.”

As Judge Gravell saw the number of suicides increase in his precinct, he decided to take action and form a task force to prevent suicides. “We’re creating a task force that will study suicide fatality rates in Williamson County and help us to gain a picture of who’s been committing suicide, how they’ve been committing suicide, with the hopes that we can help take preventative steps,” explains Gravell.

Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody has also agreed to serve on the task force.

“I recall waiting up for him with my mother,” explains Sheriff Chody of his dad, who committed suicide. “At first it was anger, I felt like it was a selfish act, but understanding it as you grow up — some mental health issues could’ve been possible, I know there was also medical issues.”

In 2016, there were 18 suicides in Gravell’s Precinct 3, down slightly from 23 suicides in 2015. In 2014, 16 people took their own life, compared to just 7 in 2013.

“That is completely unacceptable. We need to use every resource at our disposal to minimize suicide,” says Gravell.

The question of how, is still unknown, but Gravell and Chody says it starts with a conversation, to hopefully save a life. “If that one person was your child, or your mother or family member at any level, even if it’s a stranger, it would be worth it,” says Chody.

Williamson County Attorney Dee Hobbs, State Rep. Terry Wilson and County Commissioner Valerie Covey are also on the task force.

The county also has a committee called Alan’s Hope Project — a subcommittee of the Williamson County Behavioral Health Task Force. They hold community events dedicated to suicide prevention. Their next project in the works is a run/walk on Sept. 16 at Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park. A time has not been set.

A University of Texas System study this year found suicide rates in Texas have grown 23 percent in 15 years. Researchers say white men are behind the rise, up almost 50 percent, compared to blacks and Hispanics. Men are more likely to commit suicide, however the rate of woman dying is growing faster. The most vulnerable group is veterans, who are 21 percent more likely to take their own lives.

If you need someone to talk to, help is available 24-hours a day. Bluebonnet Trails Community Services has a number to call if you’re feeling overwhelmed or having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else. You can also call if you’re worried about someone else. The hotline number is 1-800-841-1255.

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