Surplus of suicides demands more action
There’s been a push in Mesa County for several years to make residents here more aware of the problems of suicide in this community.
And for good reason. Statistics show that Mesa County’s suicide rate is three times the national average.
If that weren’t frightening enough, a report from I-News Network, published in Sunday’s Daily Sentinel, showed that three of the top four neighborhoods in the state for suicide deaths by firearms from 2000 through 2011 were in Mesa County.
One neighborhood — or census tract — in Grand Junction had the second highest rate of gun deaths in the state, primarily because of suicides.
That neighborhood in the southeast portion of Grand Junction saw 17 suicides and three homicides during the 11 years in question, I-News Network reported.
No one is exactly sure why suicide is so prevalent in this part of Colorado. Nor is the prescription for reducing the suicide rate perfectly clear. But some things are evident.
Groups like the Mesa County Suicide Prevention Coalition and the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation offer information and classes on how to recognize when someone may be considering suicide, as well as counseling for suicidal persons and their families.
The Colorado Legislature this year adopted a number of gun-control measures that were mostly showboating, which will have little impact on gun violence.
But the Legislature also approved several bills related to mental health that may be far more important in preventing gun violence, including suicide, in the long run. The most important, Senate Bill 266, was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper earlier this month.
Pushed by Hickenlooper in the wake of last summer’s Aurora Theater shooting, SB266 requires the state to begin accepting proposals later this year for a series of walk-in mental health crisis centers to be opened around the state beginning next year, a 24-hour mental health hotline and mobile units that will be assigned to travel to rural areas where mental health services are sparse.
In addition, the law budgets money to expand the number of short-term, in-patient mental health beds available in the state.
These are important efforts to provide more and swifter responses to people who may be a danger either to themselves or others. We’re glad the Legislature found time to adopt such a critical measure during a 2013 session that was marked by so many controversial and contentious issues.
But stemming the suicide epidemic here in Mesa County will require still more action. It demands that every one of us become aware of the signs that often lead to suicide, that we recognize them in our family and friends — or ourselves — and that we be willing to contact professionals when we think suicide may be a possibility.