Front and Center: National Suicide Prevention Month & Zero Suicide Initiative

WACO, TX – September is National Suicide Awareness Month, and the Heart of Texas Behavioral Network, the Local Mental Health Authority for McLennan, Bosque, Falls, Freestone, Hill, and Limestone counties, is taking the lead in not only reducing people dying by suicide but getting to zero suicides.

This is why the Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network, formerly Heart of Texas Region MHMR Center, has made its Zero Suicide Initiative a high priority—in the short and long-term.

The agency’s Executive Director, Daniel Thompson, says well-known celebrities such as Naomi Judd and former Miss USA Chelsie Kryst, who both died by suicide recently, only stresses the need of the Zero Suicide Initiative locally.

“The Zero Suicide effort is an opportunity to save someone’s life and I can’t think of anything more important than that,” Mr. Thompson said.

Bethie Timmons, Director of the Heart of Texas Counseling Center—a subsidiary of the Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network, leads the agency’s Zero Suicide Initiative workgroup. She stresses suicide prevention all starts with how people engage with somebody who may be experiencing suicide ideation.

“Language matters, and so I think a lot of times people are afraid to ask the question because they think they’ll put the idea inside somebody’s head,” Ms. Timmons said. “And I am here to tell you that has not ever been the case. It is important that we are willing to ask the question in a way that conveys caring, concern and a genuine desire to know the answer.”

The statistics from the Texas Suicide Prevention Collaborative’s “AS+K Training” (Ask the question, Seek support, and Know when and how to refer for additional help) also point to a great need. The Collaborative says data, compiled in 2019, say that in 2018, Texas experienced almost 3,900 suicide deaths, close to 2-and-a-half times more Texans died by suicide than by homicide, and 1-in-5 high school students in Texas had serious thoughts about suicide in that calendar year. Plus, according to 2019 data, over twice as many Texans died by suicide than in alcohol related motor vehicle accidents.

Ms. Timmons stresses the data reinforces the need for the agency’s Zero Suicide Initiative during National Suicide Prevention Month—and beyond.

“Once the month is over, our commitment, as the Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network remains to zero suicides in our agency, in the community and the state of Texas. The chances of having zero suicide are pretty slim but the closer we can get to that number, the better off, I think, everybody will be,” Ms. Timmons said.

While the Zero Suicide Initiative continues to be crafted and implemented by the Workgroup, the Heart of Texas Behavioral Health Network has current resources available for any person in our six-county region who may be having suicide ideation—or any mental health crisis situation that needs immediate help. The agency’s Crisis Services Hotline is available 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a year with a toll-free call at (866) 752-3451. Nationally, the Suicide Lifeline is available by dialing 9-8-8.


Vince Erickson, Director of Community and Governmental


Cell: (254) 265-2030

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