There has been an uptick in the number of suicides in Aransas County since the COVID-19 threat kicked in, according to Aransas County Sheriff Bill Mills and Rockport Police Chief Greg Stevens.
“We’ve had six that we can track down in the last three months,” said Mills.
“I’ve been a little alarmed. We have to address mental health. Left unchecked (the results aren’t positive).”
The most recent suicide occurred late Wednesday, April 29 when a 23-year-old male shot himself in his pickup under the Copano Bay causeway. He left a delayed message for a friend, and was discovered the next morning.
Mills said everyone should watch out for individuals they come into contact with, especially friends and neighbors.
Both Mills and Stevens noted depression is a growing problem due to Hurricane Harvey, and now loss of employment, isolation, etc. due to COVID-19.
“You don’t have to have a mental illness to be depressed,” said Mills.
Another turn of events, which is unusual for local law enforcement, is the number of burglaries is down, because people are now in their homes during the day. However, calls for domestic violence have increased.
“The opportunity for soft targets (for burglaries) just aren’t there,” said Mills. In regard to the increase in domestic violence, he said, “People are at home together more than they usually are (and what were minor disputes before, now turn into physical disputes).”
The sheriff said it’s important we look out for one another during times like these.
“Individuals may not see it (behaviors out of the norm) in themselves,” said Mills.
“We’ve disrupted our daily routines. Are people taking their medicines as prescribed? Do you see behaviors that are out of the ordinary? If so, somebody needs to reach out to them.”
Stevens said he knows of two suicides in Rockport during the same timeframe Mills noted.
“Suicides tend to come in batches,” said Stevens, noting they tend to occur around life-changing events such as natural disasters (i.e. - Hurricane Harvey, COVID-19), which result in the loss of a loved one, jobs, etc.
“(With this COVID-19) people have fear and anxiety (attributable to the threat of the virus itself), and also face the reality of losing jobs,” said Stevens. “It (hits people mentally), as well as economically.
“It’s like a double whammy.”
He said after Harvey everyone saw when the actual storm was over. With COVID-19, the ending is not known.
Mills also noted after Harvey people could leave town for a couple of days to escape the destruction. With COVID-19, there is really nowhere one can go to totally escape its threat.
Stevens said the COVID-19 pandemic will be one that is thoroughly studied in the future because it has literally affected everyone across the globe.
“I’m glad we’re opening some stuff back up (responsibly),” said the chief.
He noted Rockport police have seen an increase in calls related to what are categorized as those experiencing a “mental health crisis.”
He quickly noted that a mental health crisis can be anything that causes an individual to act out of character, due to events surrounding him or her.
“There are those who live with mental health issues (and handle it successfully via medication),” said Stevens. “What we deal with primarily are those individuals who are having a mental health crisis at that moment.”
Mills encourages everyone to understand social distancing does not mean disconnecting with others.
Stevens said, “Use Zoom, participate in group chats (using various platforms) and continue to check on family, friends and neighbors.
“If you know someone who lives with mental illness, check on them.”
If one has an immediate concern about the health and safety of an individual, call 911 immediately.
Another option is to call the MHMR hotline at 1-800-841-6467.
If one has a genuine concern about an individual’s behavior, and it’s not an emergency, call Aransas County dispatchers at either (361) 729-1111 or (361) 729-2222.