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Crossroads lacks much-needed suicide support group, survivor says

By JR Ortega
April 30, 2011 at 10:04 p.m.
Updated April 29, 2011 at 11:30 p.m.

Jennifer Contreras-Glover wipes the tears from her eyes as she talks about her father, who she lost eight years ago to suicide.

SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS

Talking about wanting to die.

Looking for a way to kill oneself.

Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose.

Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.

Talking about being a burden to others.

Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.

Acting anxious, agitated or reckless.

Sleeping too little or too much.

Withdrawing or feeling isolated.

Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.

Displaying extreme mood swings.

SOURCE: AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SUICIDOLOGY

LOCAL RESOURCES

Want to start a support group?

Contact Judith Tyler or Lane Johnson at 361-575-0611.

Feeling in crisis?

Gulf Bend Center has a 24-Hour Toll Free Crisis Hotline that can be reached at 1-877-723-3422. The hotline is accredited through the American Association of Suicidology. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available and can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.

Need a place to go?

Gulf Bend Center's Crisis Center has licensed professional counselors available who can help with suicide prevention. The center is also accredited through the American Association of Suicidology.

SUICIDE STATISTICS

The Texas Department of State Health Services must review death certificates and its vital statistics unit must gather all of those statistics, which is a lengthy process, said Chris Van Deusen, assistant press officer.

The rate of suicide in Victoria, Jackson, Goliad, Refugio, Calhoun, DeWitt and Gonzales counties is about the same compared with national and state averages.

Jennifer Contreras-Glover lugged out trophies, baseball uniforms, furniture and all the happy items that make up someone's life.

But the move wasn't a happy one; Contreras-Glover was just trying to figure out what to do with what her father left behind.

Two fishermen found him drowned at Coleto Creek.

"Could Dad really have committed suicide?" she asked herself.

Cracking open the door to his closet, she finally had the answer.

On the hanger rack was a note and an outfit. It was the outfit he wanted to be buried in and the note, well, it had instructions on how he wanted his funeral to play out.

That moment in time has followed Contreras-Glover since her father was found in March 2003.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reported 76 suicides between 2000 and 2007 in Victoria County, the most recent figures available.

For Contreras-Glover, the pain goes far beyond mere numbers, and, in the Crossroads, no group offers support.

"I'm the first to say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," she said, crying. "It happens in this town."

Contreras-Glover, a 36-year-old Victoria resident, fidgeted as she shared the ongoing journey through not only her father's suicide, but her own attempts as well.

She turned her hands palm up, exposing the embossed scars strewn across her wrists.

"I wanted to be with him," she said, sobbing.

She attempted twice before his death and several more times after.

Contreras-Glover is bipolar, but medicated. Her father was also bipolar, but was unmedicated.

She'll never know what in particular drove him to kill himself, other than life must have been that unbearable, she said.

"Your parents, they're your rocks," she said. "It's devastating."

But for the past five years, she hasn't attempted suicide and has found solace in her family and friends.

For her, what's more depressing now is the lack of community support for suicide survivors and the victims left behind from a loved one's suicide.

"As far as I'm aware, there are no support groups," said Daniel Rodriguez, Gulf Bend Center licensed professional counselor and crisis services manager. "At Gulf Bend Center, I know of a handful of people in three years who have actually committed suicide. I know there is more."

Rodriguez is right, Contreras-Glover said.

The number of suicides in the county may not seem alarmingly high, but Contreras-Glover knows each of those people left behind family and friends, and that's how the ripple effect starts, she said.

The ripple effect does exist in each community, and it takes only one person to be a voice for that community, said Lane Johnson, another licensed professional counselor at Gulf Bend Center.

"It takes a champion," he said. "Someone who has passion with that and is willing to wade through the maze."

Several factors could contribute to why Victoria lacks a support group specifically for suicides.

A stigma toward the subject is one guess, Johnson said.

Another could be the relatively small population of suicide survivors.

Still, they are out there, Johnson said.

"She could come to Gulf Bend," he said of Contreras-Glover. "We're certainly not opposed to forming support groups."

While Johnson leads a support group on relationships, Hope of South Texas leads bereavement support groups. Technically, suicide falls under that umbrella, Johnson said.

Suicide survivors could use these groups, but their problems are entirely different, said Judith Tyler, the director of authority services at Gulf Bend Center.

The area needs a suicide support group, she said.

"There is a grief support group, but suicide is a little bit different than the average grief," she said. "There is a lot of guilt that goes along with suicide."

Like Johnson, Tyler believes community members can get a suicide support group going.

"It would require some community feedback to voice some interest," she said.

Contreras-Glover feels she has that voice and applauds Gulf Bend and other services the mental health care community offers, but more needs to be done, she said.

Last September, Contreras-Glover attended a suicide awareness march at the Texas Capitol.

The event was called Out of the Darkness, and it is something she will never forget, she said.

"It was sad, but it was beautiful," she said.

The experience she and others had that day is what she wants to bring to Victoria.

Suicide needs to be added to the local increase of marches and awareness for diseases such as autism, Alzheimer's and breast cancer, which are also very important, she said.

"I want to be the first to stand," she said, "Even if I have to stand alone."

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