GarCo battling high rate of suicides

A group battling suicides in Garfield County is urging people to securely store firearms in their homes to help reduce gun-related suicides.

The Garfield County Suicide Prevention Coalition issued the call in a news release in which it said 13 of the 15 suicide deaths in the county last year were caused by firearms.

The group says guns are a more lethal means of attempting suicide than other means, and 52 percent of U.S. suicide victims use a firearm, more than every other method combined, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2008 data.

“The vast majority of people who survive a suicide attempt never attempt suicide again,” coalition member Meghan Backofen said in the news release. “Research from Harvard’s School of Public Health has shown that those who survive appreciate being alive and go on to lead productive lives. They just have to get past the tough moment.”

The group says the risk of suicide triples when there is an accessible firearm in the home. In keeping with the National Council for Suicide Prevention’s encouragement of safe firearm storage practices, the local coalition is urging people to store firearms in gun safes or tamper-proof storage boxes. Also, Garfield County Public Health offices in Glenwood Springs and Rifle provide free gunlocks, and they can be purchased inexpensively at stores, it says.

Garfield County’s suicide rate last year was well over twice the national average of 11.3 deaths per 100,000 people. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data showed that Garfield County’s suicide rate from 1999-2007 was similar to the statewide rate of 15.7 per 100,000, which is much higher than the national average. Mesa County’s rate was even higher.

From 2000-2006, the highest rates in the country were predominantly in western counties and states, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

The coalition says it is important to safeguard not just guns but any means that might be used to attempt suicide, and that immediate access to treatment is essential and can be obtained from a mental health professional or a crisis hotline.


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