The rate of suicide in Mesa County in 2015 virtually held steady compared to the year before, but residents here continue to take their lives at a rate that far exceeds the national average, according to a new report from the Mesa County Coroner's Office.
Mesa County recorded a total of 37 suicides in 2015, one more than the year before. In 2014, the national rate of suicide was 12.9 for every 100,000 people. In Mesa County, the rate was 24.3.
Many of the same trends that are associated with the manner in which people complete suicide and the demographics of people who complete suicide in Mesa County continued in 2015, according to the report.
Most suicides — 59 percent — were completed with the use of firearms. Nearly three-quarters of people who complete suicide are men. And the greatest number of people in an age group who completed suicide — 10 — were between the ages of 30 and 39.
Victor Yahn, the chief deputy coroner for the Mesa County Coroner's Office, said coroner's investigators must be at least 75 percent certain that a death is a suicide before reporting it as such. Workers conduct interviews with family members and collect a wealth of information, such as whether a person was seeking mental health care before the death.
Of the 37 people who completed suicide last year, two-thirds had drugs, alcohol or both in their system during the post-mortem examination. The other third mostly either had been diagnosed with a mental illness or had a terminal illness, the report said.
"Where it gets a little challenging is to determine whether a drug overdose or a fall is a suicide," Yahn said.
Greg Rajnowski, a health planner with the Mesa County Health Department, said it's discouraging to see the latest report's numbers because of wide-scale coordination in the county to prevent suicide.
For example, the Mesa County Health Department is tracking the number of suicides and the manner in which people are completing suicides in real time. There have been 12 completed suicides already in 2016, which is a comparatively high number. A number of resources are available to help people who attempt or threaten suicide. Suicide attempts spiked after the holidays, some of which resulted in completed suicides earlier this year, Rajnowski said.
"I think we're all ironically feeling very positively that the coordination of care is helping. But we're always watching that number, to see where's it going," he said.
The Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation has been working on a campaign to educate gun owners to keep their firearms safe from someone who may be suicidal. Other efforts include a mobile crisis unit that is dispatched by Mind Springs to help stabilize and treat people who attempt suicide.
To access the report from the Mesa County Coroner's Office, visit http://coroner.mesacounty.us/.
For more information on suicide prevention and help, visit the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation at http://www.suicidepreventionfoundation.org/.