Meeting draws people wanting to help those with mental illness

Tonight at dinner. Even better, right now. Stop what you’re doing and talk to those you love.

If you want to play a part in reducing suicides, start asking questions and really listening.

Suicide prevention is everyone’s job.

That was the message at the first quarterly meeting Saturday of the Western Slope chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The event at the Mesa County Health Department, called “No more secrets, let’s start talking,” attracted about 30 people who were seeking help reaching out to people with mental illnesses or who have had mental illnesses.

Sarah Robinson, a licensed clinical social worker at Marillac Clinic, was one of the event’s speakers. Robinson, who said she battles depression, acknowledged that talking about mental illnesses and suicide is often uncomfortable and awkward. Even medical professionals can find it difficult. That doesn’t mean you stop trying, she said.

“We know when something’s wrong,” Robinson said. “We don’t know how to address it.”

Robinson suggested that, given the opportunity, most people like to be listened to.

“Over the next two weeks, stop and ask how are they doing and really stop and listen,” she said. “Do your suicide pre-prevention. Build a relationship before it’s needed.”

The number of suicides in Mesa County is three times the national average, according to the Mesa County Coroner’s Office. The department has been keeping statistics on suicides since 2008. The fewest number of suicides in a year was 30 in 2009, followed by 32 in 2010. There were 37 deaths in 2008. The number of deaths increased to 44 in 2011, and last year’s 47 suicide deaths were the most on record.

Speaker Juliet Carr talked about her father twice attempting to commit suicide. For years she sought resources to deal with the outpouring of emotions she dealt with but couldn’t find much help for survivors of loved ones who attempted suicide. Carr eventually took on the cause herself. She runs a website, www.
attemptedsuicidehelp.com.

“People who had a loved one attempt suicide are very scared to talk about it,” she said. “The kind of grief we go through is very, very upsetting.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness hosts several types of support groups. For information about the group and its services, visit http://www.namiws.org or call 462-3989.


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