Program aims to prevent suicides

Ten Yampa Valley residents committed suicide last year.

Nine were men.

"We assume a lot of that is untreated depression," said Sara Ross, program coordinator for Reach-ing Everyone Preventing Suicide, or REPS.

REPS is a valleywide campaign by Steamboat and Craig mental-health centers to prevent suicide. The campaign's aim is to raise awareness that depression is a major but treatable public-health problem.

The campaig specifically is targeting men, because they traditionally are much less likely to seek help for depression, according to research from REPS. They are also four times more likely to commit suicide than women.

"Men don't like to come in because it's not manly," said Gary Gurney, a psychiatrist at Yampa Valley Psy-chotherapists.

Seeking mental health sometimes is misperceived as an acknowledgement of weakness, he said. Men get wrapped up in work roles and fail to make the time to get mental help.

Jean Eskelson, a mental-health specialist in Meeker, said only about 30 percent of her clients are men. Male clients she eventually diagnoses with depression disorders usually first come to see her because of relationship problems rather than coming in on their own.

"I think it's a pride thing, not wanting to be weak, wanting to be in control. Their world view is they should be in control," Eskelson said.

But when men do come, they usually stick with the therapy, she said. They realize the advantages to working through their problems.

Eskelson helps men feel at ease in therapy by avoiding what she called "psycho-babble." She talks in practical language they can understand.

"My bias is if they feel like they're heard, they share more," she said.

Gurney said he's seen more men coming to his office during the past five years. He attributed the increase to improved education.

Men suffering depression often turn to alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate, Gur-ney said. Ross said the same thing.

"We believe substance abuse is one of the ways people cope with depression, especially men," she said.

But alcohol sedates the brain and results in people acting in ways they typically would not. Gurney said he knows people who killed themselves who would not have done so if they had been sober.

As part of the REPS campaign, which is an initiative of the grant foundation The Colorado Trust, public awareness ads will be run late at night on ESPN, Spike TV, and MTV.

Ross is giving presentations at schools and for local organizations, and is available to do so for businesses.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts, call your local mental health office in Craig at 824-6541 or Steamboat Springs at 879-2141.

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