Denton County officials hope to reduce the number of suicides in the county annually by organizing the Denton Suicide Prevention Coalition, which will hold its first meeting Friday.
The meeting is for representatives from schools, local governments, law enforcement agencies and other groups that deal with people who may be suicidal.
“It’s a dark and taboo topic for many, and we’re hoping by bringing it out in the light we can talk about it as a community and find a way that works for our community at large to lower these incidence rates,” said Phyllis Finley, co-chairwoman of the coalition.
The meeting will be conducted at noon at the Denton County MHMR Center at 2519 Scripture St.
The plan is to look at the region and create action plans to lower the rates of suicide.
According to statistics, Finley said, there were 63 suicides in Denton County in 2013, mostly by men using handguns.
Finley said that in Texas there is a high number of suicides among the elderly. The coalition will work with people who represent the senior community to address the problem.
Also, fostering better communication with young people and school-age children will be a goal.
Finley said children are more likely to talk to other children about such issues before they talk to adults.
“We want to see what we can do to reach that population to create awareness and lower these rates however we can,” Finley said.
Patti Shearin, who works in community health services for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said the meeting ideally will be the first of a series held monthly by the coalition as members develop an action plan and put intervention plans into place.
Among the 49 entities and officials who have signed on to be a part of the coalition are school districts, mental health agencies and cities, including Denton and Carrollton, which will be sending representatives to the meeting.
“At this time, it is primarily just going to be organizations, [but] we won’t turn away anyone who has a sincere interest in suicide prevention,” Shearin said.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875 and via Twitter at @BjlewisDRC.