Mesa County counted its highest number of suicides over a five-year span in 2018, according to an annual report released by the Mesa County Coroner last week.

Fifty-five persons died by suicide last year in the county, which consistently has one of the highest rates in the state. That total is nine more than 2017 and seven more than 2016. The county had a suicide rate of 35.9 per 100,000 in 2018, which was also a five-year high.

"It's disheartening. You would hope it would go down," Mesa County Coroner Victor Yahn said.

Yahn's 23-page report addressed the 1,783 people who died in the county last year. The county's population is estimated at 153,207. Yahn's office investigated 37.6% of the deaths in the county last year. Manners of death were separated into natural, accidental, suicide, homicide and undetermined categories.

Of the accidental deaths, 16 were determined to be drug- related. Yahn said that number is down compared to previous years.

"It was nice to see that," he said.

In breaking down suicide numbers, the report looked at toxicology, age ranges, gender and possible stressors, which were determined from interviews with people close to the decedent.

The report also stated that there was an increase in the number of decedents who were not receiving mental health services.

According to the report, 32% had received mental health services, and 13% had not. It was unknown in 55% of cases. Nearly half had either attempted suicide or expressed thoughts about it in the past.

Sarah Robinson, program integration manager at Mesa County Public Health said the coroner's report is just one piece of data the organization looks at when addressing the issue.

She said the organization also works with its community partners to look at attempt data, risk and suicide assessment and 911 call data.

"Deaths from suicide only give us one piece of the picture," Robinson said. "We want to continue to look at other data sources to make sure we are meeting the need."

Addressing suicide was identified as a top concern for Mesa County Public Health's most recent Community Health Needs Assessment released last year, Robinson said, and her office is studying indicators such as economic stability.

Robinson stressed that if an individual or a loved one is contemplating suicide that they seek help immediately. They can reach out to the crisis text line at 741741 or call the national suicide hotline at 800-273-8255.

"If we can get them resources to get people upstream, we want to do that," Robinson said.

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