According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, more Coloradans died by suicide in 2012 than ever before.
In Delta County, the sheriff's office responds to an average of two suicide calls per month.
Of the 14 suicide calls reported to date in 2013, four resulted in death. In the City of Delta, officers have responded to 12 calls this year, two of which resulted in death.
Though the numbers do not seem high, the effect is far-reaching, according to Robin Berndt, suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Mental Health.
Statistics show that at least six people's lives are changed forever when an individual decides to take his own life.
"On a national level, the surgeon general says everyone has a role to play in suicide prevention," Berndt says. "It's definitely a topic that needs to be addressed locally. If it's true that it takes a community to raise a child, it's equally true that it takes a whole community to save a life. It's everyone's business."
Although it's good to know the warning signs of suicide, Berndt said, it's even more important to show you care, to take the time to listen. "Compassion can save more lives than anything," she says.
The Office of Suicide Prevention leads the state's suicide prevention and intervention efforts, collaborating with communities statewide to reduce the burden of suicide in Colorado. Prevention efforts and funding historically have focused on reducing youth suicide rates, with some success. Two new initiatives — ManTherapy and Means Restriction Education — also show promise.
On the Western Slope, The Center for Mental Health offers ManTherapy as well as two options for suicide prevention training. QPR, or Question, Persuade, Refer is a 1 1/2-hour course offered at no charge to the community. Mental Health First Aid is an eight-hour course offered in an adult version or a youth version (for those who work with youth). The full-day course covers suicide prevention plus how to respond to other mental health issues. The cost is $20 per person, to cover the cost of a book.
"We are doing what we can to bring about awareness," Berndt says.
Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee credits the quick actions of first responders who were able to intervene and save lives in 10 out of the 14 suicide calls made this year. "These are the success stories where people are able get help and go on with their lives," he said.
"Help is available in our communities and I urge employers, employees, churches and any other group or association to take advantage of training provided by the Center for Mental Health to help identify people in crisis. Working together we can make a difference."
While the suicide rate statewide is highest for white males ages 25-54, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in older children and teens.
The officers in the Delta Police Department have been through the training offered by the Center for Mental Health, Chief Robert Thomas says. Still, they all struggle when responding to a teen suicide. "Many of these officers have children themselves, and it can weigh on them. I, too, am baffled by teen suicide. These young men and women have their whole lives ahead of them."
"For a law enforcement officer, responding to a suicide call can be extremely challenging," Sheriff McKee agrees. "Even more challenging can be notifying next of kin when a family member has been successful in taking their own life."
Chief Thomas embraces the suicide prevention effort that focuses on the importance of reducing suicidal individuals' access to lethal means. The Means Restriction Education initiative works with emergency room personnel, families and other care givers to make sure suicidal patients don't have access to firearms, prescription medications and other lethal means of completing suicide.
Chief Thomas urges parents to be responsible gun owners. "Lock up your weapons, lock up your ammunition," he says. "Make it difficult for children to have access to firearms." Parental involvement is also important, he stresses. "Life is precious. When we recognize an individual is in distress, we need to make sure they get the assistance that's available from the Center for Mental Health."
Suicide prevention coalitions have been organized in both Montrose and Grand Junction, and Berndt said she would love to see local citizens come together to form a similar organization in Delta County.
"There's so much citizens can do when they come together," she said.
Anyone who is interested in this effort is encouraged to call her at 252-3228.blog comments powered by Disqus