Campaign aimed at halting trend of suicides

Twelve-year-old D’Angelise Gomez, right, and Rioko Beagle, 11, second from right, take part in the No More Secrets! Campaign on Monday to build awareness of suicide and how to prevent it. Colorado West Regional Mental Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other groups are working together with the campaign to inform the public about options, many of them free, that are available for those suffering from depression and anxiety.

Banners that will pop up in various locations around the Grand Valley in the coming days will urge people to offer first aid to people in mental or emotional crisis.

QPR—Question, Persuade and Refer — is the mental-health equivalent of CPR and far more needed, said Erica Kitzman, secretary of the Western Slope chapter of the National Association on Mental Illness.

“You’re 40 times more likely to need QPR than CPR,” Kitzman said.

The mental health association and several related organizations unveiled their campaign to help Grand Valley residents recognize the warning signs of suicide — and show them how to intervene.

People who are considering suicide are likely to respond to direct questions, as suggested by the QPR method, Kitzman said.

“If you think someone might be suicidal, you should ask them straight up, ‘Are you thinking of taking your own life?’ That usually breaks the ice,” Kitzman said.

QP refers to the techniques of the QPR Institute for Suicide Prevention, The institute offers training to “gatekeepers” for suicide prevention.

The “No More Secrets!” campaign, unveiled Monday at Colorado West Mental Health, 515 28 3/4 Road, will explain the kinds of clues to potential suicides by telling the stories of four people—Christopher, Natalie, Carol and Steve—all suicide victims. Each of the banners unfurled Monday carries a photo of one of the suicide victims, as well as a list of warning signs of mental illness.

The idea of the campaign is to reduce the stigma of mental illness and encourage conversation about it with the goal of preventing suicide, organizers said.

The suicide-prevention message is particularly poignant for Mesa County, where the 47 suicides in 2012 were nearly triple the national average as expressed in terms of suicides per 100,000 people.

“No More Secrets!” is a joint effort of several organizations: Putting a Face on Suicide, Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation, The QPR Institute, National Alliance on Mental Illness Western Slope and Colorado West.

“There is too much poor information out there in the community about mental illness,” said Karen Levad, executive director of the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation. “We’re wanting to inform people what to look for, how to respond” if they see certain behavioral indications.

Even if friends or family recognize the signs of suicidal behavior, they might be unsure how to proceed, said Michelle Hoy, regional director at Colorado West Regional Mental Health.

“I think one of our big messages is that we want people in the community to start feeling comfortable saying, ‘I’m worried about you. Are you thinking of hurting yourself?’ ” Hoy said.

The Suicide Prevention Foundation operates a 24-7 hotline, 888-207-4004, that is available for people thinking about suicide and for the people who want to offer help to friends or family.

The “No More Secrets!” campaign will host a public forum from 2:30 to 4:40 p.m. Saturday at the Mesa County Health Department, 510 29 1/2 Road, in which survivors of suicide attempts, relatives and others will discuss how to highlight the need for mental-health education to counter suicide.

Additional information about the meeting is available at

Broadly speaking, there are four categories of people who are susceptible to suicide, Levad said.

■ Middle-age and older veterans, “a population that has been wounded either emotionally or physically by their experience,” Levad said, frequently show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

■ Younger men, roughly between 18 and 25, who are trapped in a cycle of despair and hopelessness, who exhibit “impulsive behavior fueled by alcohol.”

■ Older men, frequently those who have been given a diagnosis of a painful or terminal disease, or who have just lost a spouse. “We tend to accept depression as a norm in that group, rather than say depression is treatable and we shouldn’t accept it as a norm,” Levad said.

■  Younger women. Their susceptibility includes all groups, Levad said. Though women are more likely to seek treatment, “They attempt suicide more frequently and less lethally.”


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