Experts alarmed at suicide rate
March was a particularly painful month in Mesa County for suicides.
The 10 that occurred were more than any other month in recent history and equaled one-third of the total that county officials expect for a year, according to the Mesa County Coroner’s Office. Through April, which had two suicides, the total number of suicides in Mesa County this year is 20, compared with 32 for all of 2010.
Those numbers are especially startling to officials because Mesa County’s suicide rate tends to be higher than state and national averages. The national average is 11.3 deaths to suicide per 100,000 people, Colorado’s rate is about 22 deaths to suicide per 100,000 people, and Mesa County’s rate is 23.2 deaths to suicide per 100,000 people.
In an attempt to glean more information about someone’s frame of mind before he or she committed suicide, officials are conducting psychological autopsies and talking with people who were closest to the deceased, said Kim Hollingshead, a deputy coroner and investigator with the Mesa County Coroner’s Office.
“A psychological autopsy gets below the surface. Can we recognize any early warning signs to be watchful for?” Hollingshead said of the clues officials are seeking. “We want to try to tear down the stigma that we don’t talk about this.”
Despite popular belief that most people who commit suicide leave notes, only about two or three of every 10 people who commit suicide in Mesa County leave a suicide note, Hollingshead said.
Those who do leave notes usually apologize for the act and say they know that family and friends will be better off without them around. That reasoning is flawed, Hollingshead said.
“If we could grab that person and show them exactly how (their death) affected others, I’ll bet you we could change their minds,” he said. “We need to get that across before someone is in distress.”
According to Sheila Linwood, director with the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation, one death to suicide affects a dozen people directly.
High rates of suicide may be related to a general lack of adequate mental health services, the recession and a constant flow of negative information from tragedies and conflicts around the globe, Linwood said in a news release.
Renewing connections and developing relationships with each other can help curb suicide rates, she said.
“People are killing themselves because they don’t feel linked to anyone,” Linwood said. “They need to be connected, truly connected to other human beings.”
For more information about suicide prevention and intervention, visit the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation at http://www.suicidepreventionfoundation.org, or contact the group at 970-683-6626.