SAN ANTONIO – Suicide awareness is now helping define health in San Antonio.
The Mayor's Fitness Council is a group of experts dedicated to improving health throughout the city. Just a few months ago, suicide became a topic included in panel discussions.
A suicide prevention advocate whose family has been affected by suicide, is proud of her city's decision to open up such an important discussion.
About 25 years ago, Pamela Parker Visconage lost her mother to suicide. The isolation she felt made her recovery span decades.
"Most people are there to help you right when the death occurs but they really don't know what to do with you. They don't really know how to deal with it. It's such a stigma in society," she said.
Her work in the field makes her even more thrilled to hear the San Antonio Mayor's Fitness Council is turning its focus to families like hers.
The Mayor's Fitness Council focuses a lot on nutrition and physical activity, but there's been a big push recently for mental health services, including suicide prevention.
The council was started about eight years ago and when Mayor Ron Nirenberg took office, the focus shifted toward mental health. Just months ago, the council added members directly concerned with suicide prevention.
"Have a conversation just in the corporate wellness space about what does your health plan need to have in it that would give employees access to mental health services? Really create less stigma, more understanding," said Eric Cooper.
Cooper is the CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank, but also chairs the Mayor's Fitness Council.
"Bringing people together in different conversations, whether it's through information at the website, whether it's connecting relationships and leaders, or we have forums, quarterly conversations where we can highlight speakers," he said.
The council highlights crucial programs that already exist in San Antonio and leads community members to them. It also puts together programs that can help the community combine fitness and service to exercise physically, mentally and emotionally.
"It's so awesome because it's something that really did not exist here," Visconage said.
She said education for the public is just as important as providing resources for struggling community members.
"Let people know it's OK to talk with others, and you actually can ask someone -- if they're depressed you need to ask them the question, 'Do you think you're going to harm yourself?' People are afraid to ask that question," Visconage said.
She said asking that brave and sometimes uncomfortable question could save lives.
For information on suicide prevention resources: CLICK HERE
For more information on the Mayor's Fitness Council: CLICK HERE