Local groups continue fight against suicide

Saturday’s gathering at Riverside School — the Step Back Teen Summit on suicide — was a needed effort to continue to confront suicide in this community, even if the topic is not something people are eager to discuss.

On a sunny spring Saturday in western Colorado, most of us can contemplate any number of activities to take advantage of our location and climate. Gathering to talk about teen suicide isn’t high on the list for many people. But courageous families like that of Eric and Alex Gomez, both of whom committed suicide last year, are speaking out about the problem.

As an article by Amy Hamilton in Friday’s Daily Sentinel highlighted, teen suicide is a significant issue in Mesa County. And it’s not just among teens.

Back in March, when Mesa County officials put together a summit meeting on suicide among all age groups, the reason was clear. The 44 suicide deaths recorded in the county in 2011 resulted in a per capita suicide rate three times the national average. And even in years of the past decade when the number wasn’t so high, Mesa County’s suicide rate has still been roughly twice the national average, experts said.

Exactly why that is the case remains unclear. The highest demographic group for suicides is among males who are 45 to 55 years old, according to a report prepared earlier this year by Kim Hollingshead, chief deputy coroner for the county. But young people are also at significant risk. Nationwide, for those ages 15 to 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death, Hollingshead reported.

Furthermore, suicide doesn’t seem restricted to any particular income group or locality. Suicides in Mesa County in 2011 were dispersed in just about every area of the county, and across most age groups and both genders.

The reasons people choose to take their lives are also unclear. Although a few leave behind suicide notes, most don’t.

One thing is clear: If people can be contacted when they are contemplating killing themselves, most can be talked out of it. That is evident from the fact that, while there were 44 suicide deaths in Mesa County last year, law enforcement authorities receive an average of one report a day of somebody considering taking his or her own life. In most of those cases, contact and counseling can prevent an unnecessary death.

That’s why public forums such as the Step Back Teen Summit held Saturday are so important. They continue the public discussion of suicide and make it less of a taboo subject. And they let people know — in this case, teenagers — there are other folks out there dealing with the same problems, contemplating suicide, but finding ways to cope without taking their lives.


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