His Whole House founder Molly McNamara shares her story of loss to build suicide awareness

Trying to navigate through a maze blind without legs — this is how Molly McNamara describes the feelings of pain and hopelessness accompanying the trauma of suicide.

McNamara is the founder and executive director of the Cypress-based nonprofit His Whole House, a ministry that uses a faith-based approach to help trauma survivors. The organization works to “break the cycle of trauma and shame” through training, mentoring and counseling. Among its clients are people whose loved ones have attempted or carried out suicide, as well as individuals who may themselves struggle with suicidal thoughts.

“We are not a crisis intervention ministry…however, what I’ve come to understand is there is a long-term recovery period for all of us — including myself,” said McNamara, who had herself overcome attempts of suicide as a teenager.

As a suicide survivor, McNamara will be sharing her story of loss and resilience during a live online talk Sept. 30 in observance of National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.

On March 31, 1998, McNamara said she received the most horrendous news of her life — her son, Adam Thomas, had died of suicide.

“It was in that moment that I became the most reluctant survivor of suicide and truly felt a very, very dark cloud come over,” she said. “It had been one of several traumas that had occurred within a short period of time. I’d lost both my parents just months before…and this was my only living child. It was something that took me to the bottom of my ability to function and I felt as if I was in a maze, blind without legs.”

She lived in the oppressive shadow of that dark cloud for 11 years. She finally came to recognize that what she’d experienced was trauma — the trauma of loss. She founded His Whole House in 2010.

“When I came out of the silence of my own pain and trauma and started the 501(c)3, my intention was to begin to share and give a place for people to share their pain, their story,” she said. “To be able to find a place to connect to life-giving principles to bring them back into a place of healing and wholeness and a place where they can be welcome and connected and comfortable.”

Recognizing the signs

Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in 2018 in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Despite its prevalence, McNamara said that people may be reluctant to discuss suicide because of perceived stigmas surrounding the topic.

“Suicide is a silent epidemic and one of the components is the sense of helplessness and hopelessness that comes forward when a person is considering it,” McNamara said. “There’s also a component of stigma and because of that, it feels like the person has a sense of feeling like what they have to bring is a rotten basket of fruit. We need to learn how to connect with people’s pain. We need to learn how to unpack the story that has brought them to that place and the silence can be broken so that we can see people begin to build some resilience.”

If a loved one exhibits warning signs of suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline recommends having an open and non-judgmental conversation with them about suicide. According to the website, some signs that an individual may be at risk of suicide include: expressing hopelessness, feeling trapped or in pain; feeling they’re a burden to other people; increased alcohol or drug use; anxious or agitated behavior; and becoming withdrawn or isolated from others.

Help for people at risk

McNamara said it may be difficult but initiating that conversation with at-risk loved ones is key to getting them the help they need.

“It’s about being willing to be that friend and to learn how to move past that barrier — it definitely feels like a barrier — and be able ask the question, ‘are you considering suicide,’” McNamara said. “Even those words in western culture have been very, very difficult because mostly people don’t know what to do with it except to take someone to the hospital. And as we know, the hospitals are overrun. It may be a matter of taking them to the hospital, and sometimes it’s a matter of listening first to see what direction to take with that person. …Learning how to get down into the hole with the person and say, ‘hey, this is hard, this is painful, I hear what you’re saying, tell me more.’ Being able to ask them if they’re willing to let you walk with them as you walk them out of the pit.”

Suicide rates in the United States have climbed steadily over the past decade according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and recently, there has been a dramatic spike in the number of people seeking help for mental health distress, McNamara said.

“That is related to COVID. …This is not a small condition and the awareness and prevention that’s necessary is critical at this moment especially as people have been tucked away and isolated even more so with the COVID,” she said.

A few local resources for mental health and crisis intervention include: Crisis Intervention of Houston, www.crisishotline.org; NAMI Greater Houston, www.namigreaterhouston.org; Mental Health America of Greater Houston, www.mhahouston.org; and UTHealth Harris County Psychiatric Center, www.hcpc.uth.edu.

More about His Whole House

His Whole House offers an online option for people requesting prayer counseling. McNamara said that those who provide counseling through the organization are trained under the Elijah House international model.

“The model is a faith-based perspective of Christian counseling in relation to people that are licensed in ministry or perhaps they’re counselors already or health care workers. …It requires about 6,000 hours of practicum,” she said. “The people that come for counseling, we see individuals and couples — and you don’t have to be Christian of course to receive counseling.”

The organization houses its administrative office at The Work Well near U.S. 290 and FM 1960, and has locations in Katy and the San Antonio area.

In addition to faith-based counseling and prayer ministry, resources available through His Whole House include a 12- to 16-week mentor partnership program geared toward leaders of organizations and businesses; and staff and group training on trauma resilience.

His Whole House is developing an awareness training program called Fully in Touch, or FIT, which will train participants to help others by asking authentic questions and engaging in empathetic conversations. McNamara said the organization is scheduled to roll out the new training in 2021.

Among its community partners is an organization called The Get Together, which is a group of business professionals who pool their resources to help support faith-based nonprofits like His Whole House.

“We look for ministries that are meeting a unique need in our city and can utilize the resources of our business network,” said Ginger Harris, executive director of The Get Together. “When we met Molly McNamara and her team at His Whole House we knew that we wanted to participate in their work. We’ve now partnered with them for over a year and will continue this partnership. They serve the community by walking alongside people who are experiencing trauma and need to experience freedom. They host community events to educate, encourage and restore attendees. They are a lifeline for our community.”

McNamara’s live online talk in observance of National Suicide Prevention Month is scheduled from 2:30-3:30 p.m. on Sept. 30. Anyone can register by Sept. 25 to attend “Grasping in the Dark: Journeying Through the Trauma of Suicide” by visiting www.hiswholehouse.org/events.

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